We use mirrors for many purposes other than to look at our own reflection. Some of these include decoration, scientific or medical instruments and entertainment. Before the invention of mirrors, people probably first started to look at their reflections in pools of water, streams and riversToday, glass mirrors are the most common type of mirror but in ancient times they used a variety of materials including copper, steel and gold.

The first mirror was made around 6000 BC and was crafted from polished stone and black volcanic glass obsidian. In the time of Ancient Egyptians, they used polished copper to produce mirrors and the round face would be embellished with ornamentation. Ancient Mesopotamians also produced polished metal mirrors. 

In China, mirrors began to be made from metal alloys (a mixture of tin and copper) called speculum metal that could be highly polished to be made into a reflective surface as well as mirrors made of polished bronze. Metal alloys or precious metal mirrors were very valuable in ancient times and could only be afforded by wealthy individuals. 

A major mirror component is glass. Glass is a poor reflector, and so it must be coated. The most appropriate materials for making metallic coatings are silver, gold, and chrome. Since they were made by a method of coating glass with a tin and mercury amalgam, it was only affordable to high class people. The invention of the process where a thin layer of metallic silver was put onto glass by the chemical reduction of silver nitrate. This process meant that they were able to manufacture them on a much larger scale so anyone could purchase them. Today, the production is mostly done by depositing aluminium by vacuum directly onto the glass. 


Antique mirror

Superstitions & Myths

Did you know? There are several superstitions and myths about mirrors, some of which date back to Roman times. You’ve probably already heard of them but let’s take a look at the common superstitions.

  • Breaking a mirror is said to bring seven years of bad luck. This belief dates back to Roman times when they thought that it took seven years for a soul to renew itself. One way to avoid the bad luck was to bury all broken pieces deep into the ground. 
  • A mirror in the house falling from a wall is a sign that someone was going to die. It used to be a common practice to cover them up in the house when somebody died. This was done to prevent the soul of the deceased from being trapped in one of them by the devil.
  • It’s apparently bad luck to see your face in a mirror by candlelight. If you look at one you might see the spirit of a loved person who has died.

All history and superstitions put aside, mirrors are an every day necessity that would be hard to live without. If you’re looking to re-decorate or add an aesthetic touch to your room, check out our antique mirrors. Visit the Antiques of Kingston to see what’s in store.