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The History of Mirrors

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…you know the famous line, but do you know where mirrors actually come from? It’s quite an interesting tale! The first mirrors in existence were simple – reflective pools of clear water caught in rocks or captured in a clay jar. The earliest manufactured mirrors are thought to have been made from ground and polished obsidian (volcanic glass) in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) about 8,000 years ago. Mirrors made of polished copper showed up in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Egypt around 4000 – 3000 BC, mirrors made of polished stone showed up about 1,000 years later in Central and South America, and mirrors made from polished bronze showed up in China and India around the same time. Glass mirrors are mentioned by the Roman author Pliny the Elder around the first century AD, but it seems that they did not make it into general use at the time. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the modern mirror was invented. In 1835, a German chemist named Justus von Liebig came up with a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to a pane of clear glass, thus creating the mirror. His technique was quickly adapted and improved upon, allowing mirrors to be mass produced. Today, glass mirrors are so common that we don’t even think about them – so it is strange to think that once upon a time, the only mirror available to see oneself in was a simple pool of still water!

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