I was cleaning the BIG mirror in the living room the other day and realized that the reflection of moi in that mirror was much clearer, much crisper and not as distorted as the reflection I see in the spare bedroom mirror. We all have one of those distorting mirrors that doesn’t do us any favors. I bought it to use in my alterations business when I first started and was on a budget, but soon realized that it was not a good thing to have my clients look like anorexic criminals when they were trying on clothes. So the mirror got relegated to the back of the door in the spare room.
This household item is something we all have and we all take for granted. I had no real idea of how it is made, what it is made from and why some offer realistic reflections and some don’t. I went sleuthing and found some answers.
The big mirror in your bathroom is a plane mirror. (No, not plain, plane.) A thin layer of aluminum is applied to one side of a sheet of glass, through a chemical process, and paint is applied over that. In it’s very simplest form, that’s it. The quality differences come mostly from the sheet of glass. The glass must be flat, free from imperfections and be consistent in thickness throughout. So, this is one of those instances where price will dictate (usually) the quality of the product. Good quality glass, which exhibits all the necessary attributes of a good mirror, is more expensive to produce than poor quality glass.
The modern (well since 1600, anyway), mirror was invented in Germany and developed in Murano and silver was the most common backing material, although gold was also used. In an effort to save money, the backing layers of the precious metals were often very thin and cracked easily. Hence the paint. Mercury replaced silver and gold but these were replaced, for the most part, by aluminum in the 1940s’. The original application process was a closely guarded secret and became available to the English and French in the 17th century only through industrial espionage.
Now for a fun fact: Mirrors were believed, in medieval times, to be a reflection of the soul. This is why a vampire has no reflection — because it has no soul. Didn’t know that.