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Question about antique hand mirror

Good Day Ganoksin,

My sister inherited our Grandmother’s antique hand mirror, which is
very ornate, but it has a broken handle. I remember Nana reverently
handling the two pieces. She stored the handle in a jewelry drawer
for years. I think it belonged to her Mother.

Knowing my Grandmother to be VERY frugal, I am sure the expense to
have it fixed would have been considered by her to be a frivolous
expenditure. We have so few mementos left from Nana. Even though it
may not be of high dollar value, it has huge sentimental
significance, so I would really like to repair it for my Sis. I don’t
have any images yet, but they are coming. I was wondering if anyone
would like to offer some advice for how to proceed with the repair.

The glass of the mirror itself is actually silvered, so I know it’s
very old. I will not tamper with that at all, I don’t care that the
silvering shows age. I think it gives it character. I know from
memory that the mirror frame is plated silver over what is most
likely a lead based metal alloy, (it is dark greyish at the broken
edges and if I remember correctly it is semi soft).

I am wondering how best to proceed. I’m thinking a real low heat
soldering or perhaps even using a soldering iron instead of a torch
may be required to join the two ends. I know I would need to clean
the broken edges to make them meet smoothly, then try to make the
ornate nature of the design match up through fabrication and
engraving, perhaps even building up lead solder in the raised areas
as best I can and using my burs & such to carve in the designs and
then polish it as best I can? I should most probably insert some form
of reinforcement inside the hollow handle, maybe using a part of a
stainless steel knife blade so that it does not break easily again.

Am I at all on the right track here? I would be most thankful for
any advice on how to proceed with this type of repair.

I have a “Midas Plating Station” with rectifier, and although I
don’t yet have the necessary fluids or a cathode of fine silver, I
will be acquiring them in the near future for other plating

Thank You in advance!

Hi Teresa, My best advice is to NOT do the work yourself and find a
professional in your area. The work you are describing is difficult
to do well and impossible if you are guessing how much heat to add to
that semi-soft, grayish metal with broken edges. If this is an
important object for you don’t use it as your experiment. Mr Herman
of the SAS may have some suggestions for pot metal repair and
plating. If not contact me off list. I have two or three folks to
recommend. JMe

We need some good close up pictures of the overall mirror and the
broken edges. Thebiggest problem will be identifying what the metal
work alloy is. It could be very thin silver sheet. to pewter ie
antimony/ tin alloy. Also lots of the hollow ware metalwork
likecandle sticks were filled with a mixture of pitch and chalk and
resin. it was melted in a small crucible then poured into the hollow
form with a piece of iron wire as extra support.

If silver very difficult to re hard solder. You need easyflow no 3.
if pewter based then a soldering iron and the best active plumbers
flux based on killed hydrochloric acid ( with zinc) works best.

Teresa- I used to do fine antique silver repair when I was a
liturgical silversmith.

I would turn that job down. Trust me on this.

The base metal is probably what we used to call “white metal”.

It’s melting temp is so low you can almost melt the stuff with a Bic
lighter. Tin or Tix solder would be my choice if I were of a mind to
try this. If you were able to get it all in one piece you’d have to
copper plate before you silver plate. Old white metal is notoriously
hard to plate. Also any heat would destroy the silvering on the glass
part of the mirror.

If the mirror handle is filled with a some kind of shellac or heat
sensitive filler you may be able to do a fix. Your best bet if it’s
filled, is to get a piece of metal rod that you can heat and plunge
into the two ends and have that reinforcing rod hold the two
together. Any excess filler can be removed from the out side with
acetone. That way you don’t have to risk soldering and the need to
plate after.

Knowing when to say “No” can be a very important lesson to learn in
this trade. Especially when it comes to repairs.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

I just caught this thread and don’t know the specifics. Please do
post some nice clear images so we can see the problem. I would be
happy to help.

Jeff Herman


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