Mirrors: A Brief History

November 28, 2022 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Mirrors are such a common sight in your home that they are easy to ignore. Unless you have a broken mirror or need a mirror replacement, the most interaction you have with your home’s mirrors (outside of normal daily use) is cleaning them every so often. However, mirrors occupy an interesting place in human history, and mirror history spans the entirety of human history.

A Brief History of Mirrors

The first mirrors were likely pools of still water or ponds where early humans observed their appearance. Soon, early man would start crafting primitive mirrors from reflective volcanic glass, or obsidian. These obsidian mirrors are quite old and have been found in parts of Turkey dating back over 6,000 years ago. Ancient Egypt is well-known for its craftsmanship, and they made mirrors of polished bronze which often had ornamentation and other artistic flourishes.

Indeed, nearly every civilization in the ancient world crafted mirrors. The Mesopotamians had polished metal mirrors, ancient Central and South American cultures used polished stone, and China used bronze and blends of tin and copper for mirror production. Mirrors making use of glass were first produced in Lebanon in the first century CE, and the Romans made mirrors that could be considered primitive versions of modern mirrors, making use of blown glass and lead backings. In these early civilizations, mirrors were seen as items of status and were owned by wealthy and powerful members of their societies.

Improved Production

During the Renaissance mirror production became more widespread however, the process was still chemically complex, and mirrors remained luxury items. This changed in 1835 through a discovery by German chemist Justus von Liebig. He developed a method where a thin layer of metallic silver could be placed onto glass by using a chemical reduction involving silver nitrate. This allowed mirrors to become mass-produced and become a common item owned by all. Today mirrors are commonly made by using a vacuum to directly deposit aluminum onto the glass surface.

Mirrors and Superstition

There are several old legends and myths concerning mirrors often associated with the soul or spirit. The old legend that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck dates back to Roman times and is because it takes your soul seven years to heal from the damage a broken mirror causes it. A way to prevent this bad luck was to bury the broken mirror deep in the ground. Another well-known mirror myth is covering all the mirrors in a home when a person passes away. This is to prevent the soul of the recently deceased from becoming trapped. There is also the superstition that a mirror falling from the wall is a sign that someone in the home has just passed away.

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