Still Water as Mirrors
Our prehistoric ancestors probably took a pool of still water as a mirror, or collect water with a primitive vessel and look into the vessel to check their reflection for thousands and millions of years before polished obsidian was used as a mirror.
Polished Stone as Mirrors
The earliest physical mirrors that people could hold in hands were pieces of polished stone such as obsidian coming from volcanic eruptions. People would heavily polish the stone until it shows a beautiful reflection, making it the world’s first mirror. However, as you may perceive, theses obsidian mirrors were really heavy, so they usually weren’t made large. They were mainly used as small decorations by the wealthy. Legend has it that the peoples of ancient Mexico used polished obsidian mirrors as instruments of black magic. By gazing into a mirror’s smoky depths, sorcerers can travel to the world of gods and ancestors.
Examples of obsidian mirrors found in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) have been dated to around 6000 BC. Other polished stone mirror examples were from Central and South America date from around 2000 BC. The earliest mirrors one can hold in hands in China were made from polished jade.
Polished Metal as Mirrors
By the Bronze Age most regions were using mirrors made from polished plates of bronze, copper, silver, or other metals. Such metal mirrors were always there throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. During the Roman Empire, silver mirrors were in common use by servants.
However, common metal mirrors tarnished easily and required frequent polishing, but even heavily polished, theses mirrors still had low reflectivity. Most ancient metal mirrors had a round shape, and their backside was usually embellished with delicate and beautiful ornamentation.
Lead-coated mirrors: from convex to flat
Since glass itself was likely to be invented in Lebanon, it’s not surprising that it was the birthplace of the earliest modern mirrors. Craftsmen was discreet about the glass-making following a step-by-step method, they should blow a thin layer of molten glass into a bubble, and then pour hot lead into the bulb of glass. The lead coated the inside of the glass. When the glass cooled down, it was broken and cut into convex pieces of mirrors. Thus, their surface ended up being either concave or convex and tended to distort the reflection on it.
Mirror quality was improved along with the development of glass-making technique, they transform from convex surface to even and flat one. Glassmakers in France made flat glass plates by blowing glass bubbles, spinning them rapidly to flatten them, and cutting rectangles out of them. A better method, developed in Germany and perfected in Venice, was to blow a cylinder of glass, cut off the ends, slice it along its length, and unroll it onto a flat hot plate. Venetian glassmakers also adopted lead glass for mirrors, because of its crystal-clarity and its easier workability.
Metal-coated mirrors are a huge improvement in mirror-making since the metal provides good reflectivity, and the glass provides a smooth surface to protect the metal from scratches and tarnish. But lead-coated mirrors were still not the perfect because the lead layer was not strong enough to prevent cracking by the heat of the molten metal.
Tin-mercury-coated mirrors: from expensive to affordable
During the early Europe renaissance, a fire-gilding technique developed to produce an even and highly reflective tin coating for glass mirrors. The back of the glass was coated with a tin-mercury amalgam, and the mercury was then evaporated by heating the piece. This process caused less thermal pressure to the glass than the molten-lead method. Venice becomes a center in producing mirrors adopting this method. Venetian mirrors were served as luxury decorations for palaces throughout Europe, and were very expensive.
However, by the end of that century the secret was leaked through industrial espionage. French workshops succeeded in large-scale industrialization of the process, eventually making mirrors affordable to the masses, in spite of the toxicity of mercury’s vapor.
Silver-coated metal mirrors were developed in China as early as 500 CE. The bare metal was coated with an amalgam, then heated until the mercury boiled away. Other historians believed that the invention of the silvered-glass mirror is credited to German chemist Justus von Liebig in 1835. His wet deposition process involved the deposition of a thin layer of metallic silver onto glass through the chemical reduction of silver nitrate. This silvering process was adapted for mass manufacturing and led to the greater availability of affordable mirrors. The metal coating of glass mirrors is usually protected from abrasion and corrosion by a layer of paint applied over it.
Modern mirrors use aluminum rather than silver. The aluminum is applied via vacuum, and will bond directly to cooled glass. Aluminum can oxidize, but a protective layer such as paint can be applied to prevent oxidation. Aluminum coated mirror has no double image, giving a true reflection.
The Advent of LED Mirrors
The advent of LED mirrors that were contemporary changed society in so many ways. It brought about a newfound sense of individuality. For the very first time, people could see their very own reflections as clearly as day. And with the introduction of LED mirrors, people were able to notice every single curve, flaw, pimple, and line in their appearance and they absolutely loved it. Because who doesn’t want to be able to perfect their appearance before they walk out the door? This made people able to better connect with themselves.
Lighted Mirrors with Bulb
Actually, it is inseparable from the participation of actors and makeup artists. At present, film and television production can be done with the video, and at that time, all kinds of makeup were made by makeup artists.
When makeup artists work, they must clearly see the actor's face, but most of them can't see clearly in the evening. Then the mirror bulb came out. Its structure design is relatively simple, a bulb is installed in front of the bathroom mirror, which plays the actual effect of lighting fixtures, making people's faces more clear. Now there are many light mirror in homes and studios. Actually, this kind of bulb mirror is the predecessor of an LED bathroom mirror in the real sense.
LED Mirrors with Strip Lights
With the development and innovation of technology, LED beads gradually replaced ordinary mirror bulbs, and LED strips were recognized in the sales market. LED beads have the advantages of small arms, low energy consumption, long service life, and low heat release so they can defeat ordinary daylight bulbs in terms of features and energy.
Later, people were no longer satisfied with a single bulb hanging on the bathroom mirror, so this complex and simple mirror bulbs was gradually replaced by an LED mirror strip light built in the mirror itself, which has a high-end design.
And there's more technologies go into LED mirror making: bluetooth, motion sensor, etc.