May 2016

Antique Mirrors

For the past few centuries, mirrors have been one of the focal points of the home and are considered an essential home furnishing by many top interior designers. The mirror has the ability to transform a room and can easily alter the ambiance giving a feeling of greater space and depth.

A Brief History of the Mirror

As soon as early man saw a reflection in dark rock pools and rivers, the race was on to capture the image using more concrete materials.  The first known mirrors were discovered in Turkey 6000 years ago, and were made from polished stone or volcanic glass obsidian.  Ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians, fashioned mirrors from polished copper and other rare metals.  Similar items found in Central America dating back 2000 years BC.  By the first century AD, the Phoenicians were producing glass fronted mirrors backed with polished alloys, while the Romans favoured blown glass backed with lead.  Along with their rarity, superstition and legend are part of their story, for many believe that a mirror could capture the souls of those looking into it.

The Romans were convinced that a broken mirror destroyed the soul for seven years, this being the natural span of time for the soul to regenerate itself.  It was thought that if a dying person gazed into a mirror, the spirit was locked into it.  For that reason, mirrors were draped with cloth to cover them whenever a person in the household had just died.  The superstition has persisted to this day among many rural communities in parts of Europe.

The first mirrors were decorative, luxury items which were made in Venice in the Sixteenth Century and shortly after in France.  They were hugely expensive and regarded as a status symbol, used not only for practical purposes but to enhance the lavish decoration of the great houses and palaces of nobility, a notable example being the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

In 1835, Justus Von Leibig- a German scientist, invented a process whereby a thin layer of silver nitrate could be applied to glass.  This revolutionised the mirror making industry and instantly the commercial mirror was available to everyone at affordable prices.

Mirrors remain popular items of home furnishing for the same purpose it has served throughout history – its practical value for us to see ourselves when checking our appearance.  In a much wider context, as a decorative feature which will enhance the style of a room, increasing a sense of light, space and even introducing a touch of glamour.


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