The History Of Mirrors – A Timeline

A scientific definition of a mirror indicates that it is a shiny surface that reflects the image of an object and forms it, when light rays originating from the object fall on its surface. The history of mirrors is a study of the origin, development and adoption of mirrors in the society. Mirrors were first invented by the Romans in the first century and from the onset, a lot of inventions and innovations have occurred in the history of mirrors. Throughout history, mirrors have served man in various capacities. They were used to view one’s own image, for entertainment purposes and also used in scientific studies as instruments. In addition, were also inculcated into the fashion industry. It is important to note that mirrors were no longer produced and became rare in the middle ages due to superstitions and religious beliefs. As a result, metals were polished and used by non-fashionable ladies. Some of them used water bowls to view their images.

Ancient Greeks and Romans made mirrors from Bronze and copper that was highly polished. It was not until the late third Century A.D that glass mirrors appeared in Germany and the Northern Middle East. The history of mirrors is recorded in ancient times to be motivated by man when he saw his image in water, probably in rivers and lakes. By the Thirteenth Century, cities such as Venice and Nurnberg had developed a reputation in production of high quality mirrors. These workmen regarded mirror production as a secret trade, and they moved from city to city with their expertise. Soon, Central European countries especially Great Britain and France started massive mirror production. Mirrors made from these regions were generally of high quality and therefore were very expensive.

Mirrors are things we can't live without.

flickr by kaylovesvintage

The main technique used in manufacture of mirrors was glass blowing. This is the most ancient of all methods although use of polished surfaces was just an introduction into mirror manufacture. Casting was later adopted in parts of France and Britain where a mould was prepared into which glass was poured. After cooling to considerable temperatures, smoothness was realized using dedicated types of rollers. Although a study into the history of mirrors indicate that it was a secret trade, today it can be cheaply manufactured by application of molten silver layer on the back of glass, or using Aluminum. This method eliminates blurred images in mirrors and is therefore applicable in construction of scientific instruments such as lenses.

It was during this period in the timeline of events regarding history of mirrors that art and status was merged with mirrors. Ivory, silver and ebony were among the most popular materials used to make mirror frames. Some were made from animal shells and beads. Notable mirror designers that existed in the mirror industry were Robert and James Adam who were English designers. It was their mirror tastes that were to be later adopted in the fashion arena. Variations later emerged to show individual identity and status. Later in the late 18th Century, mirror frames were decorated using beautiful patterns of flowers, animals and ornaments. In this error in the history of mirrors, French artisans made circular mirrors and decorated them embedding a thin gold layer frame whose main purpose was holding of candlesticks. A full length mirror was soon introduced to view the entire body and for decorations. Mirrors were built into furniture as overmantle mirrors. Famous royals that embraced extensive use of mirrors include King Henry VIII of England, King Francis I of France and queen Mana De Medici of France.

Events in history of mirrors took centre stage in the seventeenth Century when the Orthodox Church of Russia banned its priests from owning mirrors. This led to a revolutionary stage in the history of mirrors that would shape the world and how they related mirrors to various beliefs and superstitions. It was believed that Satan observed the person using the mirror from the other side. In addition, breaking mirrors were seen as a bad omen, and one had to apologize in case of an accident. Due to their nature of reflecting light, they were also believed to reflect death in the ancient times.

Today, mirrors are found within every home, and the history of mirrors still continues to take shape. One certainty is that mirrors will continue to exist and shape the life of the common man for many year to come.