How Were Mirrors Made in Ancient Times?

Mirrors have been used by humans for thousands of years, and they have played a significant role in our daily lives. But have you ever wondered how mirrors were made in ancient times? Let’s explore the history of mirrors and the techniques used to create them.

Early History of Mirrors

The earliest mirrors were made from polished stone or metal. In ancient Egypt, people used polished copper to create reflective surfaces. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used metal, such as bronze or silver, to make mirrors.

The Invention of Glass Mirrors

The invention of glass mirrors is attributed to the Romans, who discovered that by coating the back of a piece of glass with a reflective metal like tin or lead, they could create a clear mirror. This technique was later refined during the Middle Ages in Europe.

The Process of Making Glass Mirrors

To make a glass mirror, artisans would start by cutting a piece of clear glass to their desired size. They would then clean the surface thoroughly with water and pumice stone to remove any impurities.

Next, they would apply a layer of mercury onto the cleaned surface using a brush. Mercury was chosen because it has excellent reflective properties and adheres well to glass.

After applying the mercury layer, artisans would cover it with a sheet of tin foil or silver leaf. The foil or leaf would protect the mercury from oxidation and give it a smooth and shiny surface.

Finally, they would heat the backside of the glass gently with an oven or fire until it dried completely. The heat caused the mercury to evaporate gradually, leaving behind only its reflective layer on the glass’s surface.


In conclusion, mirrors have come a long way since their inception in ancient times. From polished stones to sophisticated glass mirrors, we have developed various techniques to create these essential items that we use every day. The process of making glass mirrors may have changed, but the fundamental principle remains the same – to create a reflective surface that allows us to see our reflection and the world around us.