I don’t know about you, but I use my mirror SEVERAL times a day. It’s hard to think of a time when mirrors weren’t around, which led me to look deeper into the history of these panes of glass.
The history of mirrors is actually pretty fascinating. Mirrors have been around for over 8,000 years, and they’ve come a long way since then. From the prehistoric era to now, mirrors have always been around in some form (natural or manmade).
I’d love to take you through everything I know and share the journey that I went on. Let’s look at the incredible evolution of mirrors through the ages.
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- Mirrors have been around for centuries and are used by many different cultures for various purposes.
- The early glass mirrors were likely made of water-polished obsidian, a type of volcanic glass.
- The earliest manmade mirrors were made of polished metal surfaces, such as bronze or silver.
- Modern glass mirrors are made of glass coated with a thin layer of metal, usually silver.
What Was Life Like Before Mirrors?
While it’s hard to imagine, there was a time BEFORE mirrors. We use mirrors for many things – from getting ready in the morning to backing up our cars. We take them for granted, but have you ever thought about where they came from?
Before mirrors came into existence, people would likely have used bodies of WATER to examine their reflections if they happened to pass. Any reflective surfaces would have been used for this practice.
There is no evidence to suggest that people actively sought out their reflections in the prehistoric period, but our fascination with the self and our reflections grew as we EVOLVED.
So when were our mirrors first created?
The First Recorded Mirror
The first recorded mirror was found in TURKEY and is thought to be over 8,000 years old . It was a small mirror made of polished obsidian, a type of VOLCANIC glass. This mirror was found in the tomb of a man who was thought to be a high-ranking official.
Polished stone and obsidian mirrors were VERY common, and it is the earliest form of mirror-making in recorded history. Stone mirrors are not as strange a concept as you might think.
Pro Tip: Polished obsidian is a type of volcanic glass that is found in obsidian rock. It is black and has a very SMOOTH surface. When it is polished, it becomes very shiny.
The mirror was found in the tomb of a high-ranking official because it was thought to be used for divination. Divination is the practice of predicting the FUTURE by looking at things like the reflections in water or mirrors.
What Were Ancient Mirrors Like?
The first mirror was SMALL, but eventually, mirrors started to be made in various shapes and sizes. They were made of different materials like metal, GLASS, and even ivory.
The ancient Egyptians used polished METAL to make mirrors . They believed that their gods and goddesses could SEE them in the mirror and that it was a way to communicate with their plane.
The ancient Greeks and Romans also used polished metal mirrors, and some used polished bronze or polished copper. They also believed that their gods and goddesses could SEE them in the mirror. Furthermore, the mirror was a symbol of TRUTH for both of these cultures.
Metal mirrors remained popular for many years, and mirror makers kept them as part of their practice even when the first glass mirrors were made.
As you can see, mirrors have always been around in some form. But what was their role in ancient mythology?
The Role of Mirrors in Ancient Mythology
We have already seen that the mirror was seen as a way to COMMUNICATE with the gods and goddesses. It was also believed to offer a portal to another plane of existence, and this could be interpreted as AFTERLIFE in some ancient religions.
The mirror was also used as a way to see into the future and for DIVINATION. In some cultures, the mirror was thought to show you things that were not yet VISIBLE to the human eye.
Furthermore, it was also thought to have the power to reflect things that had been LOST. For example, if someone had lost their way, they could look in the mirror and see the path that they needed to take.
The mirror was also used as a way to ward off EVIL spirits. It was thought that the mirror could reflect back the bad energy of an evil spirit, and there are some cultures that believed you could TRAP evil in the mirror.
The mythology behind mirrors is so vast that it would take up a whole other article, so I’ll leave you with that small introduction.
What Was the Early Modern Mirror Like?
The early modern mirror was a bit different from the mirror of today. It was still made of GLASS, but it was not as clear. This is because the glass was not as PURE, and they would have also been convex mirrors.
The EARLIEST glass mirror that we have from this period is from 15th-century Venice. It is a small mirror that is set in a wooden frame.
Pro Tip: The early modern mirror was used for the same things as the mirror of today. It was used for personal grooming and to see one’s reflection.
The mirror has come a LONG way since its humble beginnings. It has been used by many cultures for a variety of purposes, and it is an essential part of our lives today.
How Did the Makeup Mirror Originate?
The wealthy and ruling classes often coveted Mirrors for their ability to show a person’s REFLECTION. But it wasn’t until the late 18th century that mirrors became popular with the masses.
This is because of the invention of the MAKEUP mirror. The makeup mirror was a small, handheld mirror that was used to apply makeup. It was usually made of GLASS and had a metal frame.
Pro Tip: The makeup mirror was invented by an Englishman named Peter Henckels. He was the first to mass-produce mirrors, and his company is still in business today.
The makeup mirror quickly became POPULAR with women of all classes and is still an essential part of a woman’s makeup routine today.
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The Origins of Vanity Mirrors
The vanity mirror is a type of mirror that is used for personal grooming. It is usually LARGER than a regular mirror and is often found in the bathroom.
The ORIGINS of the vanity mirror can be traced back to ancient Rome, where they were used by wealthy women to apply makeup and perfume.
This is also the time the Venetian mirror came into existence, and Venetian mirrors remained the most POPULAR among the upper classes for decades.
In the 18th century, vanity mirrors became more common and were often decorated with ORNATE frames. They were usually found in the homes of the wealthy and used by noblemen and women.
Pro Tip: The term “vanity” comes from the Latin word vanitas, which means “emptiness.” Vanity mirrors were often associated with narcissism and self-absorption.
So how are mirrors actually made? read on to find out.
How are Mirrors Made?
The mirror is made of glass that has been coated with a THIN layer of metal. The most common type of mirror is the silver mirror, which is made by COVERING the glass with a thin layer of silver.
Other types of mirrors include the aluminum mirror, which is made by coating the GLASS with a Layer of aluminum, and the copper mirror, which is made by coating the glass with a thin layer of COPPER.
The metal coating on the mirror is what allows it to REFLECT light. The thicker the metal coating, the more reflective the mirror will be.
Manufacturing mirrors have come a long way, and now we have many different options.
READ MORE: The 12 Best LED Mirrors Review
The Role of Mirrors in Art and Literature
Mirrors have long been used in art and literature as a way to REFLECT reality. In the 18th century, mirrors were often used in portraiture to create a more realistic image of the sitter.
In the 19th century, mirror symbolism became popular in gothic novels. The mirror was often used as a way to REVEAL the hidden truths of the characters.
In the 20th century, the mirror became a popular motif in Surrealist art. Mirrors were often used to create an irrational or dreamlike image.
Today, mirrors are still used in art and literature as a way to create a sense of REFLECTION and reality.
Some of the most popular literature that has a HEAVY focus on mirrors, paintings, and the concept of reflection are:
- The Picture of Dorian Grey
- Through the Looking Glass
- Snow White
The mirror is a simple yet essential object that has been used by cultures all over the world for CENTURIES. It is an important part of our daily lives and has been used in art and literature as a way to reflect reality.
I hope you found this guide to be an interesting read and one that was able to teach you a little more about the history of our reflections and the way in which we see ourselves.
What else do you know about the history of mirrors? Let us know in the comments section!
-  Campbell, S. and Healey, E., 2013. Obsidian bijouterie, mirrors and vessels in the prehistoric Near East; examples from Domuztepe (Turkey) and Tell Arpachiyah (Iraq). Edited by, p.92.
-  Mendoza, B., 2017. Artifacts from Ancient Egypt. ABC-CLIO.
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Sylvia is one of the most joyful people you’ll ever meet. She is a high advocate of self-love and encourages women to take care of themselves both mentally and physically. She loves girly talks especially salon talks (a little gossip doesn’t hurt) and spends most of her free time on skincare or hair care. You can find more about here HERE. Find her on LINKEDIN