When Were Mirrors First Used?
We will never know who first discovered the idea of a mirror. But our earliest ancestors must have noticed that they could see their reflections in the surface of a still pond. For thousands of years, the only mirrors were polished pieces of metal — bronze, silver, and gold. Glass mirrors like we have today were first made in the Middle Ages.
They didn’t have the modern technology used today, so the mirrors were difficult to make and expensive. In the Renaissance period after the Middle Ages, the technique of making mirrors developed. Around 1300, the craftsmen of Venice began making mirrors of glass by backing them with a coating of mercury and tin.
These early mirrors, however, were often wavy. The type of mirror we use most today is a polished sheet of glass with a shiny silver coating on the back. These Mirrors could show a clearer image. Artists even used mirrors to paint self-portraits. They were still very expensive so only the rich could afford them.
The process for making modern mirrors was developed in 1835. A German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass. This technique was soon adapted and improved upon, allowing for the mass production of mirrors.