Mirrors Are Everywhere

Whether in a gym for bodybuilding or martial arts, dance studios, or fashion design workshops, mirrors are everywhere. They are both a training tool and a psychological aid, reinforcing performance-driven self-images.


Glass Mirrors Alpharetta have been around for thousands of years. The first were probably pools of calm, dark water, but metals such as silver-mercury amalgams became available later.

The modern silvered glass mirrors we use today got their start almost 200 years ago, when German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for coating a pane of clear glass with thin layers of metallic silver. The invention revolutionized mirror production and made it cheaper, easier and more widely available. But mirrors themselves have been around much longer than that, and have served many purposes over the ages.

The first physical mirrors came into being about 8,000 BCE, when people in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) ground and polished obsidian (volcanic glass) to create the first reflective surfaces. Early metallurgy techniques helped improve the quality of these mirrors over time, and by the 1st century BCE, people in Mesoamerica were manufacturing them out of iron ore and obsidian for both decorative and divinatory purposes.

Ancient people also used stone, copper and bronze to make mirrors. They were a highly valued accessory for the wealthy, and were used in ceremonies and rituals to communicate with supernatural spirits. The idea that one could gaze into a mirror and glean paranormal knowledge about the world beyond the self was something that stayed with us through the ages, reappearing in mythology and folklore and influencing our perception of ourselves as we viewed ourselves through the glass.

Mirrors have become so integral to our culture that even the word itself is derived from the Latin mirare and the Italian mirar. But mirrors are more than just a way to see yourself; they’ve been central to art, culture, history, medicine, psychology and philosophy.

Art historians are familiar with the thousands of paintings depicting women gazing lovingly into their reflections. Painters like Titian, Degas, Courbet and Manet all made their mark by capturing the beauty of feminine bodies doubled in a silvered surface. But for many women at the time, mirrors were more than a vanity tool; they were a practiced technique for assessing their worth and power.

It took a long while for technological advances in the production of mirrors to be brought to the masses, as they were so fragile. The invention of silvery mercury amalgams around 500 AD led to somewhat more durable mirrors that were still costly and exclusive to the upper classes, however. Over time, improvements in metallurgy and glassmaking allowed for better and more accurate mirrors that became increasingly affordable and commonplace.


Mirrors have a polished surface that is coated with a reflective material. Metal is the most common, but glass and plastic are also used. Mirrors can reflect all visible wavelengths, although some may be absorbed or transmitted. A mirror’s reflection and transmittance depend on the shape of the object, its texture, and microscopic textural features. It is not possible to create a perfect mirror because even the best material will have some absorption and scattering, but a well-designed surface can be very close to reflecting all the light that hits it.

The first step in the production of a mirror is to get a piece of clean glass that has been carefully shaped and free of flaws. It is placed in a vacuum chamber and the reflective material, usually silver, is deposited on the surface. This is a process known as “silvering.” During this process, the atoms of the metallic silver spread out over the surface of the glass, reflecting all the light that hits it. The reflected light is usually white, but it can be colorized by coating the surface with thin films that preferentially reflect certain parts of the spectrum.

This process allowed for the creation of larger mirrors and was very popular in Europe during the Renaissance, when Venice was a center for large-scale production. It was still expensive, though, and required a great deal of skill and time. By the end of the 19th century, new methods made mirrors much cheaper and more widely available.

Modern mirrors are made with aluminum silvering, a process that is more efficient than the earlier mercury-based method. To make aluminum silver, the glass is put in a vacuum chamber that contains electrically heated nichrome coils. The metal vaporizes, and the hot atoms stick to the glass. This is repeated multiple times to get a thick layer of silver over the glass. Some mirrors are coated with a material that makes them resistant to damage or heat, such as Pyrex or beryllium.

Mirrors are also commonly made out of plastics, which offer the advantages of being lightweight and shatter-resistant. Some examples include polycarbonate and acrylic. Plastic mirrors are often used in applications where safety or portability is critical, such as automotive and home mirrors.


Mirrors are often used to create a focal point in a decor scene and serve as a way to add interest and drama. They can also function as an alternative to windows, bringing in natural light and expanding a room’s visual dimensions. They’re a great choice for dressing up powder rooms, anchoring larger decor scenes or illuminating entryways and hallways. With the right amount of care and consideration, a well-placed mirror can elevate any space.

The surface of a mirror must be perfectly smooth to be able to reflect light. For this reason, mirrors are ideally made out of metal or glass. Metal is best because it is relatively durable, and it can be easily polished to a high reflectivity. Glass is also very good because it is lightweight and can be inexpensively produced.

Depending on the use, a mirror may have a planar or curved surface. It can also be coated with a layer of silver or aluminum to make it more reflective. Alternatively, it can be coated with a plastic film to protect it from scratches and other damage. The choice of coating depends on the mirror’s intended use and budget.

In the 19th century, new, cheaper techniques for producing glass made it possible to manufacture large mirrors. German chemist Justus von Liebig invented a process of coating glass with silver that relied on chemical reactions rather than electroplating. He dissolved silver nitrate in ammonia and exposed it to vapours of formaldehyde, which caused the silver to adhere to the glass. This method is still in use today.

A mirror’s reflectivity is the percentage of reflected light in relation to the total amount of light that strikes its surface. A perfect mirror would reflect all wavelengths in the visible spectrum, but even a very smooth piece of glass only reflects about 90-95% of all light that strikes it, according to Microscopy Today. The remainder is absorbed or transmitted, depending on the shape of the object and its microscopic textural features.

While mirrors can be used to create vignettes and add interest to any decor scheme, it’s important to avoid overusing them. If they’re not carefully placed, they can detract from the overall effect and compete with other decorative elements. Instead, it’s a good idea to think about how mirrors can reinforce other shapes in the room—particularly those that are already present in the architecture of the space. For example, a large arched mirror can reinforce the arch of an entryway door to help create a cohesive design scheme.


When mounting mirrors, using a clip or bracket method is preferable to gluing them on. Gluing requires applying several layers of thick adhesives, which can damage the backing and leave unsightly marks on the wall. Clips are more discreet, safer, faster to install and allow for easier future repositioning or removal of the mirror.

Most new mirrors come with mounting hardware, including D-rings or wire, attached to the back or included with the purchase. The hardware should indicate the weight of the mirror so you can be sure your wall and your hands can handle it. If the mirror does not come with clips or brackets, consider purchasing a set of small frameless mirror mounting clips from a home improvement store or online retailer. These are much simpler to use than a regular screw-in hook, and can support a heavier mirror.

First, decide where to hang the mirror. Mark the corners or edges with painter’s tape to prevent scratching or chipping. Then, locate studs in the wall by sliding an automatic stud finder along the wall and marking where each stud is located with a pencil. The location of the studs will determine where you can mount the bottom clips, since you’ll need to be able to sink each screw into a stud.

If the studs aren’t precisely where you want them, or your mirror is too heavy for a stud, you’ll need to use wall anchors to hold the mirror. Avoid drilling through pipes or live wires, and be sure the wall anchor you choose is suitable for the weight of your mirror.

Once you know where the bottom clips will go, set the mirror up on its back and position it on the wall. Holding the mirror up for a dry fit, take note of any tendency it has to lean one way or another when up against the wall. Shift the bottom clips left or right, if necessary, to ensure that each will contact two studs and support the weight of the mirror. When you’re satisfied with the positioning of the clips, use a bubble level to draw horizontal lines on the wall where each will go and drill small pilot holes at each spot. Screw in the bottom clips, then place and tighten the top ones, as well.