What Did People in Ancient Times Use to Make Mirrors?

In ancient times, mirrors were not as readily available as they are today. People had to come up with innovative ways to create reflective surfaces for their use. Let’s explore some of the materials and techniques that were used to make mirrors in ancient times.

Polished Obsidian

One of the earliest materials used by humans to create mirrors was obsidian. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that can be easily polished into a reflective surface. The ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica are known to have used polished obsidian as mirrors as early as 2000 BC.

Polished Metal

Another early material used for mirrors was polished metal. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all made mirrors from highly polished metal, such as bronze and copper. These mirrors were usually small and portable.

Mercury-coated Glass

During the Renaissance period, a new technique was developed for making mirrors using glass. A thin layer of mercury was applied to one side of a piece of glass, creating a highly reflective surface. This technique was first developed in Venice in the late 15th century and quickly spread throughout Europe.

Sheet Metal Mirrors

In the 17th century, sheet metal mirrors became popular in Europe. These mirrors were made by hammering sheets of metal, such as brass or silver, into thin plates and then polishing them until they became reflective.

Glass Mirrors

Today, most modern mirrors are made using glass. The process involves coating one side of a piece of glass with a thin layer of aluminum or silver, creating a highly reflective surface. This technique was first developed in Germany in the early 19th century and has since become the standard method for making mirrors worldwide.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, people in ancient times used a variety of materials to create mirrors, including obsidian, metal, and glass. Each material had its advantages and disadvantages, but all were effective in creating reflective surfaces.

Today, mirrors are commonplace and can be found in almost every home and public space. It’s interesting to think about how much effort was required to create mirrors in the past compared to how easy it is today.