The History Of Mirrors

by Staff Editor on May 17, 2013

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Mirrors are flat or curved pieces of glass with a reflective surface that enables images to be seen reflected back to the viewer. Versatile and commonplace nowadays, mirrors are popular for preening as well as other purposes. For example, the ability to check ourselves in the mirror before heading out of the house is something most of us take for granted. How exactly has the mirror evolved over the centuries to achieve its modern form?

As with most things, mirrors have been advanced over the past hundreds of years. Some believe that humans have been looking at their reflections for thousands of years. In the very early days, of course, reflections on water had to suffice. However, eventually, people became more creative in the ways that they looked at their reflections. Of course, mirrors are used for a wide range of reasons in addition to vanity,  decoration, safety measures, science, and simply for fun.

Ancient mirrors

In ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, mirrors were made from highly polished metals and stones; stones included obsidian. The earliest known obsidian mirrors date back to 6000 B.C.E. in Anatolia and 2000 B.C.E. in Central America. Metals included gold, copper, bronze and silver, and often small hand-held mirrors were made using sheets of polished metal with an attached handle.

Glass mirrors

The first glass mirrors date back from roughly the third century C.E. and were located in places such as Egypt, Germany and Asia Minor. The earliest of these  mirrors were very small – a  few inches in diameter and not very well-made. To this day, people still prefer metal mirrors over glass ones.

Mercury mirrors

In this era, people began experimenting  more with mirrors, spreading hot melted metal across the glass. By the sixteenth century, this had advanced to the point of creating reflective metal. In Venice, glass-makers developed a process to make a plate of flat glass with a thin layer of reflective mercury. However, this method was extremely slow, as the backing had to be attached before the metal hardened; each mirror would take in excess of one month to finish. As a result, mirrors at this time were expensive – a commodity only the rich could afford.

Convex mirrors

The development of glass-blowing led to the creation of convex mirrors in the fourteenth century, which offered a whole new perspective of the world to the viewer.

Metallic mirrors

The German chemist Justus von Liebig invented a way to add a thin metallic glaze to glass, in 1835. Over time, this led to mass availability of mirrors as the silvering process was adapted for larger output. Even today mirrors are made using a thin silver or aluminium layer on the back of each piece of flat glass. The only exception to this process are mirrors intended for use in telescopes, which are made by melting aluminium onto the front rather than the back of the glass.

Mirrors as Art

Today, mirrors are not merely functional but also decorative pieces in a variety of styles to suit all decorative schemes. Art Deco, Venetian and Rococco mirrors are all popular and the variety of materials used for frames is endless. Whatever the style of your home or office might be, a fabulous mirror to adorn the walls will create a feeling of light and space.

About the author

Caroline Dalzell is a keen blogger who writes on a number of interesting subjects. Check her out now on Google+

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