Does this technology go back ancient times? And how are they made? I remember when I was a kid reading that mirrors are made by simply putting sliver paint on glass. If that was the case, I guess mirrors back in the day cost a pretty penny. Just wondering, thanks!
Mirrors based on polished metal go back to the ancient world. A lot of museums have Etruscan bromze mirrors, for instance. I’m not sure how far back they go, but I strongly suspect that the bronze mirror they show in the movie The Ten Commandments to be likely.
At an optics conference several years ago I attended a lecture on American mirrors, made from naturally shiny minerals.
The idea isn’t that hard to conceive of – people have probably been looking at their reflections in still water ever since there were people. Finding a metal surface to act as a better, permanent, and vertiical mirror wouldn’t be too hard. The problem is that they have to be constantly polished. I’ll bet that there were gol mirrors, or at least gold-coated mirrors. Gold, being pretty nonreactive, wouldn’t have that problem. Silver gives a “whiter” image, but silver tarnishes.
If I’m not mistaken, modern “silvered” mirrors, in which a silver compound is used to coat a piece of glass, resulting in a non-tarnishing and lightweight mirror, was developed much later. Renaissance, I’m guessing. Aluminizing would be better in some ways, but the discovery of aluminum (and how to coat with it, using an evaporator) were a long way off.
From what I rmember from my history classes the first silver-backed mirror camde from Venice, Italy in the early 16th century.
Before this people just made do with polished metals (silver and bronze for example).
I’d say that a few hundred years ago mirrors produced by applying a layer of silver to the back were very expensive. A trip through the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles is worth doing if you’re in the area but it isn’t IMHO all that impressive but hundred of ears ago having this amount of mirrors in the same room was something only royalty (and the King of France at that!) could dream of.