The History Of True Mirrors

The first known true mirrors were made in Anatolia (modern day Turkey) during the 6th century BC. These early mirrors were made from pieces of polished obsidian, a type of natural glass formed from volcanic lava. The smooth, reflective surface of obsidian allowed people to see basic reflections of themselves for the first time. 

The history of true mirrors? This question invites us to explore the fascinating story behind one of humankind’s oldest inventions. Mirrors have played a central role in human civilization spanning art, science, technology and mythology. 

The earliest manufactured mirrors were made by the Romans. Around 1 AD, they invented flat glass which allowed for the production of finely polished metal mirrors showing more accurate reflections than previous mediums. The Romans strategically used mirror arrays on hilltops to reflect sunlight and send coded signals over long distances, pioneering basic optical telecommunications. 

Earliest Mirrors Polished Obsidian Stones

The first known mirrors were made from polished obsidian in Anatolia during the 6th century BC. Obsidian is a type of natural volcanic glass that can be finely honed to produce a reflective, mirror-like surface. These earliest mirrors allowed people to see basic reflections of themselves for the first time in human history.

Ancient Greek accounts tell of obsidian mirrors being regarded as wondrous novelties and luxury goods. The limited number of natural obsidian deposits constrained production scales. Each hand-crafted obsidian mirror took weeks of laborious grinding and polishing to manufacture, confining their ownership to elites.

Ancient Egyptians Highly Polished Bronze  

Ancient Egyptians Highly Polished Bronze  

By 3000 BC, Ancient Egyptians had advanced mirror making by producing finely polished brass and bronze mirrors. These metal alloys proved more durable and portable alternatives to obsidian. Egyptians framed their mirrors in ivory, silver and other ornamental materials signifying wealth.

Ancient Egyptians pursued the finest reflective finishes their contemporary abrasives permitted. They pioneered glass and faience mirror inlays by 1500 BC too. Their mirrors held cultural import for rejuvenation and afterlife preparation rituals commanding spiritual representation.

Type Year Invented Key Facts
Flat Glass c. 1 AD Invented by Roman glassworkers blowing molten glass into large flat sheets which could be finely ground and polished into flat mirrors
Glass Tinting c. 600 AD New techniques developed in the Levant area to tint and color clear glass mirrors
Venetian Mirrors c. 1300 AD Blown glass techniques combined with tin-mercury backing brought renowned clear mirrors from Venice through the Renaissance era

Medieval Mirrors Expensive Luxury Items

During the European Medieval period, mirrors remained hard to produce items restricted to society’s elite given the intricate craftsmanship required. Most were small vanity hand mirrors made from polished metal. Their convex distortion presented an imprecise reflection.  

As mirror-making techniques incrementally improved, kings and queens had full-length mirrors made to display their regalia. Owing to their prohibitive cost, some public places like inns displayed a single mirror. Breakage or damage incurred seven years of bad luck as mediaeval superstition.

Renaissance Venetian Glass Blowing Advances  

The thriving glass industry accelerated mirror designs to new levels of optical clarity. By the late 16th century, Venetian glass blowers pioneered new remarkably clear mirror designs by settling melted glass atop hot liquid tin-mercury amalgams. This gave a perfectly smooth backing bonding tightly with the glass. 

As Venetian mirror manufacturing expertise grew, so did mirror size and affordability. This allowed everyday people to view themselves properly in mirrors publicly displayed across buildings and landmarks in major cities. Their popular uptake was seen at the time in plays and diaries recounting self perspective.

Industrialization Brings Mass Production

The rapid emergence of steam powered glass works brought plate glass mirror making production capability to industrial scales during the 1800’s. Run off batches from monumental glass casting kilns were polished, cut and finished for mirrors in the family homes springing up amid the urbanisation waves of the industrial revolution. 

Mass producing cheap sheet mirrors also crucially enabled more complex optical machines to sprout up supported by this basic component embedded across products like telescopes, microscopes and photographic cameras inventing new audiences exposed to mirrors unseen in human history.

Mirrors Reveal First Insights Into Light 

Mirrors Reveal First Insights Into Light   In the late 18th century, mirror development played an integral role furthering understanding light rays via reflecting telescopes and optical experiments. Astronomers used ever larger lightweight speculum metal mirrors in reflecting telescopes to scan the night skies tracking cosmic discoveries.

Physicists passed beams of sunlight through laboratory apparatus containing periscopes and parabolic mirrors examining light’s optical essence central to theories leading to electromagnetism. This mirror driven inquiry saw light shift from a supposed mechanical corpuscle flow to an electromagnetic wave phenomena better explaining what reflective surfaces bounced back.

Mythology Mirrors Appear Across Cultures

Beyond their utilitarian applications advancing technology, mirrors also held strong metaphorical and mythological symbolism across early human cultures. Their reflective surfaces evoked concepts of consciousness, truth, clarity and were believed to expose a truer self representation of the viewer’s soul.

Ancient folklore in regions like South America, Asia, and Africa recounted stories of mirrors revealing platonic forms to those gazing within. Some feared mirrors enabling alternate worlds where doppelgangers existed. Societal taboos existed round covering mirrors to protect spirits when death occurred nearby in the era predating psychology.

Mirrors Allow Increasing Self-Recognition  

The emergence of inexpensive manufactured sheet mirrors in the 19th and 20th centuries brought deeper dimensions of individual self recognition like never before on personal psychological levels. Mirrors transitioned from a privileged novelty to an everyday household item and persevering fixture integrated into changing identities. 

More mirror time across the population brought increasing consciousness of appearance, presentation and social signalling inferred from observing one’s mirror reflection. As mirrors diffused more ubiquitously indoors they subtly shaped new aesthetics, gazing behaviours and measures individuals judged themselves by privately.  

Modern Technology Brings Virtually Perfect Reflections

Modern Technology Brings Virtually Perfect Reflections

Today’s mirrors represent the pinnacle of centuries of iterative advances producing essentially optically perfect reflections constrained by the molecular glass structure itself. 21st century mirrors leverage precision nanofabrication techniques etching sub wavelength features boosting reflection percentages to over 99% broadband.

Multi-layer dielectric interface stacks now enable near lossless mirror performance tailorable to specific EM wavelength ranges powering cutting edge optics applications from semiconductor to gravitational wave detection lasers. Precision nanofabrication techniques allow us to Make A True Mirror by etching sub-wavelength structures to achieve over 99% broadband reflection.


What is the True Mirror myth?

 The True Mirror myth refers to ancient folklore and superstitions about mirrors revealing a person’s true inner self or soul, or enabling access to alternate worlds and doppelgangers.

What is the science behind a True Mirror?

 A True Mirror uses precision nanofabrication techniques to etch sub-wavelength features on multi-layer dielectric interfaces, boosting reflection percentages to over 99% across broad bandwidths for near optically perfect reflections.

Why are true mirrors so expensive?

 True mirrors are so expensive because they require specialized nanofabrication methods to etch precise sub-wavelength structures on multi-layer dielectric coatings to achieve over 99% reflection across broad bandwidths, which is a complex and costly manufacturing process.


Mirrors have transformed how humans see themselves and the world around them. The long history of mirror development traces breakthroughs in materials science and manufacturing. Early mirrors from polished stone let people see basic reflections of themselves for the first time. Metal alloy mirrors became more advanced and affordable. Glassmaking methods enabled clearer and larger mirrors. 

Industrialization then allowed low-cost mass production of good quality mirrors. Precision nanofabrication techniques now produce near perfect true mirrors. Mirrors also impacted culture and psychology over history. They held symbolic meaning in ancient mythologies about inner selves and alternate worlds. 

Widespread personal ownership of mirrors from the 19th century enabled more individual self-recognition. The pursuit of affordable true mirrors continues extending applications in optics and photonics. After many centuries of incremental improvements, mirrors reveal truths about light, identity and existence at scales spanning the cosmic to quantum.

Leave a Comment