Have you ever witnessed antique dresser sets of women in old movies? The most common item is an antique brush and mirror set perfectly positioned on a vintage table. Today, these sets are snapped by collectors eagerly.
If you are an avid collector of antiques (like me), it is no surprise that you come across an antique brush and mirror set. These sets are undoubtedly attractive to the eye, but are they valuable enough to throw money on them? This guide will satisfy your query!
Brush and mirror sets were increasingly available after the Victorian era, so you can easily spot them online or in antique shops. As families possessed these sets lovingly, some of them might actually be worth more than you think!
Therefore, I have developed this detailed guide on the identification and value of antique brush and mirror sets. Go through the guide to estimate an inherited collection’s worth or to find a rare one at a garage sale!
What Are Antique Brush and Mirror Sets?
In the old days, mirrors were called “looking glasses,” and hair brushes were not a staple. It was not until the 18th century that brush and mirror sets became common among the people.
As society became more civilized, the need for hair brushes and mirrors grew. Initially, they were considered expensive gift items usually given to women.
Soon, the selling of brushes and mirror together became popular during the Victorian era. Therefore, manufacturers started designing them as a set.
Here is a brief overview of how mirrors and hair brushes evolved in the historical times
Historical Evolution of Brush and Mirror Sets
Hand-held mirrors have long been used as decorative items and household essentials. Romans, inspired by celts, first adopted these mirrors.
In the 16th century, mirrors were produced in Murano and Venice. These early mirrors were not, in fact, glass but highly reflective metal surfaces. The metal disk came with a strong handle, and the upper part was polished to reflect light. The back of these mirrors often contained designs depending on the owner’s wealth.
Sir Robert Mansell first introduced mirrors in England in the 17th century. They made these mirrors through the process of blowing air in glass cylinders. The glass was split and flattened out to give the shape of the hand-held mirror.
Until the early 19th century, The artisans used tin and mercury to manufacture glass mirrors. Therefore, these mirrors were only available to the rich. Around 1840, silver replaced the tin and mercury mixture to make mirrors widely available.
Today’s antique hand mirrors are from the Victorian era (the early 1900s). It was when mirrors became a must-have for women in houses, vanities, and even in children’s rooms. Manufacturers started producing these sets with unique floral arrangements, intricate design patterns, and shapes.
The history of hair brushes does not tell a specific inception date. However, historians report that they were manufactured from natural materials with metallic or wood handles. In ancient times, hair brushes were considered a luxurious item. It was only possessed by the wealthy, who could afford grooming and wigs.
William Kent founded the first brush manufacturing company, “Kent Brushes,” in Britain in 1777. It remains one of the oldest companies with the most popular styles of brushes.
Hugh Rock obtained the first patent for the hairbrush design in the United States. He created beautiful brush and mirror sets in various methods that are popular as antique items.
Antique Brush and Mirror Sets Identification
The brush and mirror sets have been on the radar of antique collectors for long. They have enjoyed attention due to their decorative value and affordable prices. The exquisitely crafted sets are available online and in antique shops. You can also spot them in sales from time to time.
If you are looking to add these beauties to your tool kit or want to sell one, consider the following to recognize a real gem.
Identifying Common Types of Brush and Mirror Sets
The brush and mirror sets are primarily classified on various vintage materials used in their manufacturing.
Following popular types of sets have been admired by collectors imparting them a sense of nostalgia.
Note: Only sets older than 100 years are considered antique. Some of the collections available are vintage but might not be authentic antiques.
Bakelites are one of the first produced sets of brushes and mirrors. Since bakelite is cheap synthetic plastic, these sets were mass-produced.
The bakelite brush and mirror sets were available in various colors and patterns. The most common is the brown tortoiseshell, but you can still spot other vibrant colors. These sets are also available in pink, yellow, blue, cream, and green hues.
Manufacturers made bakelite sets mainly from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Celluloid is also a synthetic plastic but is lighter than the bakelite material. The celluloid was developed around the 1860s and 1870s. Soon, it became a good choice for producing toiletries as it was sturdy and easily moldable.
Celluloid is a cheaper material, so these vanity sets were available on a large scale. These sets particularly gained popularity during the 20th century with their art déco patterns.
Brass brush and mirror sets were considered elegant and classy. Also, brass is a solid material, making it a popular choice for vanity set purchasers. These sets were usually available in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
If you find a brass brush and mirror set at an antique store, it is likely to have dulled. Brass collects patina over time, which means it is several years old.
It is up to you if you want to polish the brass sets. However, some vintage collectors admire the effect of patina on it.
See how you can clean your antique hair brush
Sterling Silver Sets
Silver became the manufacturers’ choice for brush and mirror sets in the late 19th century. The people admired this metal due to its longevity and sparkling shine. Dresser and vanity sets of silver are still popular among collectors. These were also expensive, after which the cheaper plastic sets took over.
Although silver sets were popular due to their shiny surface, authentic collections come with some degree of patina. Pure sterling silver metal is known to patina with age, so antique sets will look dull. However, some mid-20th century sets have still retained some shine.
Check this detailed video about identifying antique sterling silver vanity sets.
It is hard to find a vanity set wholly made out of enamel. However, decorative enamel is quite popular in antique brush and mirror sets. These sets have enamel inlays that impart color to the piece.
The enamel sets are usually intricately designed to give an artistic touch. The inside was metal or plastic, usually painted with motifs and pastel colors. Enamel-decorated collections were popular before the start of the 20th century.
Gold Plated Sets
Gold-plated sets were trendy among middle-class individuals during the Victorian era. Gold plating is a technique where a cheap and sturdy metal is coated with a thin gold layer.
Gold plated sets satisfied the list of glamorous vanity sets without being heavy on the pocket. Therefore, they usually selected a cheaper metal to make a vanity set, and then gold added glitz.
Ivory was considered a luxurious and costly material obtained from the tusks of certain animals. The most common is elephant ivory, used in making various antique items.
The brush and mirror sets made out of ivory are considered highly precious. However, you won’t be able to sell these sets due to the ban on the ivory trade in the U.S. After the prohibition, it is not legally possible to buy or sell ivory pieces.
Still, you can keep the ivory brush and mirror sets in your possession if you already own them.
Jasperware is stoneware that has been used in pottery making for more than a hundred years. Wedgewood first designed jasperware brush and mirror sets in the 1770s. These sets typically came in blue and remained available until the 20th century.
You can also spot porcelain brushes and mirror sets in some antique shops. These sets were considered high-end due to their porcelain craftsmanship. A more refined version of these sets was available in Limoges porcelain.
Antique Brush and Mirror Sets Value Guide
The brush and mirror set continuously make rounds in antique shops with aesthetic designs and decorative value. They are also often listed on auction websites and consignment shops.
Since these items are not rare to find, their real value lies in their quality and condition of the item. The material used in the brush and mirror set also determines its worth.
More significantly, the following factors determine the value of an antique brush and mirror set.
Factors affecting the Value of Brush and Mirror Sets
Age of the Brush and Mirror Sets
Generally, older items are sold worth more. Antique items (more than 100 years old) are more expensive than vintage (older than 20 years but younger than 100 years).
For brush and mirror sets, the collections that date closer to the 1700s and 1800s are far more valuable for the collectors. In contrast, the sets produced in the late 1900s are much cheaper.
For instance, this vintage brush and mirror set is listed on eBay for $28.75.
Condition of the Sets
The collectors value an item more if it is in good condition. To qualify as a good condition item,
- The brush should have all the bristles intact.
- The handle should not have any cracks or scratches
- The back of the brush and mirror should not show discoloration
- The mirror should not possess any chips or dents
If the brush or mirror is damaged in some way, the value of the set will decrease. The collectors can estimate its worth depending on the magnitude of the damage.
For example, this used brush and mirror set is listed on eBay for $18.
The brush and mirror sets will sell worth more if you can also produce the original box with them. The antique boxes in excellent condition enhance the item’s value for the collectors.
This three-piece vintage vanity set in original packing is listed on Rubylane for $50.
Design of the Sets
Since the brush and mirror sets were primarily produced as women’s items, they sported unique designs. Some antique sets also had embellishments and intricate carvings on them.
The popular design patterns and jewels in the brush and mirror sets render them worth more. The prevalent trends of that time, such as Art Deco, also elevate the value of these sets. The gemstones and shimmer effect on the mirrors make them highly admirable for collectors.
For example, the brush and mirror set with embroidery are listed on Etsy for $84.28.
Types of Brush and Mirror Sets
The value of the brush and mirror sets also highly depends on the type and material used in their production. Plastic and synthetic materials are usually cheaper than other metals.
Bakelite is a cheaper plastic; thus, these sets were mass-produced. You can easily spot a brightly colored bakelite set on various platforms. These sets were manufactured in the mid-1900s. Therefore, a bakelite set is relatively inexpensive.
You can find these sets for an average price range of $20-$30. Check out this eBay listing of sage green bakelite set for $24.99.
Due to the longevity and durability offered by celluloid, it was a popular choice for producing vanity sets. Celluloid brushes and mirror sets are also common and less expensive. Their price range is quite similar to bakelite sets.
However, the sets with Art Deco patterns and geometric shapes can add more value. Celluloid vanity sets ranged from as many as 2 to 12 pieces, so the complete set with the original box would be worth more than the individual items.
Silver sets are typically associated with the era before plastic sets’ mass production took over. These sets are heavier and speak antique with their overall design.
Generally, silver sets are sold at a higher price than plastic, given they are in good condition. The silver sets with patina will likely decrease their value in the market. Therefore, the cost of an antique silver set varies in the market.
For instance, this silver set listed on eBay is $26. The Art Deco silver vanity set on Etsy is available for $75, and the antique Georg Jensen Silver Vanity Set is listed on Rubylane for $1000.
Like silver, brass sets are also more expensive than those made from synthetic plastics. However, the quality and condition of the collection will determine the final worth of these brush and mirror sets.
The dulled brass sets with visible aging and cracks will descend their value. In contrast, a good-condition set with beautiful engraving will enhance the set’s value. This brass set is listed on eBay for $20.
Enamel sets are not entirely made of enamel, so their value lies in the amount of decorative enamel. If they are artistic with romantic motifs and fresh pastel colors, they will sell worth more than their plastic or metal counterparts. For example, this enamel set on eBay is open to bid at $115.
How to assess the value of the Brush and Mirror Set?
To estimate the value of your brush and mirror set, you should research its type, materials, age, and market price. You can take the following routes.
- Check online websites such as Antiques Off Broadway, Ruby Lane, eBay, and Etsyfor any similar items listed on them. Find the ones that resemble yours and study their selling price.
- Read the written material available on the antique brush and mirror sets. You can also visit online bookstores such as Barnes&Noble,org, and Betterworldbooks.
- Take your item to an appraiser for an estimate. You can also use an online websiteavailable for this purpose.
From a luxury for the rich to a staple in every household, brush and mirror sets have come a long way. The aesthetic appeal and intricate design patterns on these sets made them a loving possession of women in ancient times.
Vintage collectors keep an eye out for these antique beauties in every shop and garage sale. But, before buying or selling brush and mirror sets, identify the original pieces by researching their various antique materials.
These sets’ actual value lies in the material used in their production. Also, the collection in good condition with original boxing is more valuable in the market. The brush and mirror sets made of metal are generally worth more than the ones with plastic.
If you have any other questions, feel free to comment down below!