Think of the last time you saw an old movie in black and white. Odds are there’s at least one shot of the ingénue, leading lady or heroine sitting at her dressing table checking her hair and make-up in a lovely hand mirror.
Those hand mirrors from long ago are usually quite decorative. Some came as part of a set; hand mirror, comb and brush set. Others were part of a much larger dresser set with many items such as: manicure items, dresser jars and bottles, button hook, alarm clock, picture frame, shoehorn, sewing kit, dresser tray, clothing brush, hair brush, comb, hand mirror, and tray mirror. Some of these large sets with over 20 items came in an impressively beautiful presentation box suitable for gift giving.
About 15 years ago, my sister and I had a set with the large presentation box in fairly good condition. (Not the one we had but one like, the set above was pulled from Pinterest) The complete set had over 20 pieces; each piece in their allotted space in the gift box. It was quite impressive.
After the early 1900’s most dresser sets and hand mirrors were made of embossed metal, enameled metals or celluloid and could include just a few pieces or more. These dresser sets while functional also brought beauty to the dressing table as well as helping the user feel beautiful about dressing each morning. More modest sets of the Art Deco period made in celluloid produced in many colors but most often a buttery yellow or green helped decorate a lady’s dressing table. Some of the enameled metal sets came in a variety of colors as well.
I don’t always hang onto the hand mirrors that come my way, usually selling them within months of finding them but I appreciate the beauty in each of them.
One that continues to stay in my clutches is this beautiful brass embossed handle with painted porcelain back. The mirror’s surface needs re-silvering but the beauty of this piece is more the hand painted design than its functionality. The stylized gypsy girl on the back dances on my dresser each morning welcoming me to another day and giving me a smile to begin my day.
Yes, I admit this one needs some help but when holding the smoothed by the years, tactile handle, I get a sense of all the years of use and how lovingly caressed by its previous owners this mirror served well for many, many years. The decorative handle, deeply embossed on both sides with a swirling floral motif fits the hand with an ergonomic precision. The mirror’s thickly beveled edges, held in place with a pie crust type crimping still reflects a clear image even though the silvered backing pulls away in places, mostly around the edges. Yes, the crack seen on the porcelain detracts from the value and maybe that is why I do not sell this one. The value seen by others does not begin to reach the value this vintage mirror holds for me. Other hand mirrors come and go from my collection but this beauty will probably remain for much longer as I am not ready to let go yet.
Do you have any hand mirrors in your life?