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A Brief History of Mirrors

A Brief History of Mirrors

Everybody has a mirror in their home, most people have several. They provide us a convenient way to make ourselves presentable, aid us in directing natural light into our homes, or simply work as part of our décor. Although mirrors in their modern form are quite a recent invention, the use of reflective surfaces to function as a mirror dates back thousands of years. Here’s a quick rundown of the use of mirrors throughout history.

The first mirrors ever employed by humankind were probably simply still pools or containers of water. But according to a peer-reviewed article in the Optometry and Vision Science journal, the first-known manufacturing of reflective surfaces to use as mirrors comes a staggering 8,000 years ago! In Anatolia (what is now modern-day Turkey) manufacturers used polished obsidian (glass produced from the eruption of a volcano) to provide themselves a reflective surface for vanity.

Metal mirrors were first used in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (which lies across modern-day Iraq, Iran, and Syria) around 3000-4000BC, forged from polished copper! In Egypt these golden mirrors were used to represent the sun god Ra, giving them a religious significance in their culture. This was repeated by the Japanese thousands of years later as, when they began importing them from China around 300AD, bronze mirrors were quickly associated with Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the sun. Throughout the medieval period in Japan, mirrors were considered highly spiritual items and associated with warding off evil spirits and communing with the gods.

China itself began their manufacture of mirrors around 2000BC when they began crafting the ornamental bronze pieces they would eventually begin exporting to Japan. Around this time, we also see mirrors being crafted in India and across Latin America.

Now moving into the Common Era (changing from BC to AD), the Roman Empire was most instrumental in proliferating the manufacturing of mirrors across Europe and the rest of its territory. This is when mirror-making took off in Britain (or Brittania – as it was then known), and by the time the Roman Empire receded back to within Italian territory, the practice had already been well established.

The style of mirrors used in Britain and Europe changed greatly throughout the remaining Iron Age and Middle Ages, and the manufacture dropped dramatically during the Dark Ages! But eventually we got through to the mirror design we’ve come to know and love – discovered by a German chemist in 1835. Since then, the method of coating a pane of glass with reflective metallic silver has become the foremost method of mirror manufacture today!

Mirrors have a fascinating history stretching back thousands of years, which has given us plenty of time to gain some expertise on the subject. If you’re looking for your next mirror, get in touch with us today and we’ll help you find the perfect mirror for your home. Now 30% off selected products!