The Antique Mirror for Every Home: A Historical View

Every great home can benefit from the addition of an antique mirror. Mirrors, generally speaking, are invaluable tools for personal and home use. Your interior design considerations should always include thoughtful mirror purchases and placement.

How do you know what style of mirror you prefer? There are so many styles and historical design eras to consider. Before you go and buy the newest mass-produced option, pause and look at the antique and vintage options in front of you. You’ll undoubtedly find quality, unique, and long-lasting items for your home. Join as we explore the history, decorative benefits, and design evolutions of mirrors.

Antique Mirrors and Self-Obsession

It is almost second-nature to us now to have mirrors, cameras, and phones at the ready. We repeatedly monitor our appearance, checking our skin, hair and clothing. And most of all, bathroom mirrors are so commonplace it is hard to imagine one without any! But when did this practice begin? And how did we get to full-length, clean, minimalistic mirrors like this Vintage Mirror in Brushed Aluminum?

Mirror in Brushed Aluminum - Styylish
1970’s mirror in brushed aluminum – available now on Styylish.com

We have confirmation that mirrors have been personal grooming tools for centuries. Greeks documented this through their antique pottery artwork depictions, creating pieces with elegant greek figures staring into small handheld polished metal mirrors.

Historic Furniture and the history of mirrors. Join us on a deep dive of the history of the antique mirror while discovering unique styles that might suit your home.
Ancient Greek Attic red-figure lekythos by the Sabouroff Painter, c. 470–460 BC, National Archaeological Museum, Athens (Greece)

When Was the Invention of Mirrors?  

Sources disagree on the exact birth of mirrors. As with many historical developments, different regions and people created varied solutions over time. Polished obsidian in the archaeological record could be considered “mirrors” from 4000 BC.

Some researchers argue that the first mirrors are the polished bronze disks with handles traced back to 2900 BC Egypt. Other people point to 2000 BC, where cast bronze mirrors were unearthed in China. These mirrors were very small, commonly perhaps just a few inches in diameter. These bronze mirrors were considered sacred in medieval Japan.

The Antique Mirror: Now in Glass!

Still, it would take another three thousand years to arrive at anything like this Baroque Gilt Wood Mirror. This rectangular mirror features a beautifully wood carved frame, decorated with acanthus leaves and a cherub head at the top.

Baroque Gilt wood mirror- Styylish
A Baroque Mirror – available now on Styylish

All of the previous methods did not involve glass until glass creation methods became reliable in the 12th century AD. The first recorded guild of mirror makers was formed in Nuremberg, Germany in 1373, followed by a guild in Venice, Italy.

The High Value of Mirrors

Venice remained as an epicenter for mirror production and exports for hundreds of years to follow. By the 16th century, this industry was shipping mirrors for sales up to several thousand British pounds. They were in a category of their own, valued even higher than the finest paintings from high-renaissance artists like Raphael.

It is nearly impossible to imagine the immense value mirrors had by the 1500-1600’s. Naturally, Venetian creators wanted to keep their techniques locked up. It is rumored that they even threatened to execute for anyone who dared to share trade secrets.

The exquisite creations continued. This Gustavian 18th Century Pier Mirror hails from Stockholm, Sweden 1780. The splendid detailing makes it easy to imagine in a royal castle or an affluent family home.

Pier Mirror- styylish
Exquisite 18th Century Gustavian Pier Mirror – available now on Styylish.com!

Production Of The Past: Mercury Mirrors

Due to the continued high cost to create mirrors, only the wealthiest clients had access to this coveted object until the 19th century.

The costs were representative of early practices for mirror-making. The dominant technique involved many steps. After blown glass cylinders were flattered with stone, layers of tin were added on the glass plates and sanded. At last, crafters covered mirrors with a layer of mercury, then smoothed and shined.

Admire this opulent Italian Baroque Carved Gilded Wood Mirror, which dates back to 1750. This mirror includes all original elements, and this mirror style wears through the years. Even the most pristinely-kept pieces have a unique appearance. This “mercury glass” effect is highly sought-after now, and there are many articles and videos trying to mimic the real thing.

Carved Gilded Wood Mirror - Styylish
Italian Baroque Gilded Wood Mirror – available now on Styylish.com!

New Mirrors Welcome in the Biedermeier Era

In 1835, Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, developed the silvered-glass mirror. This enabled the manufacturing of mirrors to expand, and for the first time, mirrors were available to the middle-class.

This Cherry Biedermeier Wall Mirror is very representative of the popular qualities of Biedermeier mirrors. The cherry veneer, solid cherry wood, and clean lines of this piece are exquisite.

Cherry Biedermeier Wall Mirror - Styylish
A stunning Cherry Beidermeier Wall Mirror – now available on Styylish.com!

Additionally, marvel at this elegant Biedermeier Dressing Table Mirror. The mahogany veneer and ash inlays are so captivating and beautiful on this mirror and table combination.

Biedermeier Dressing Table Mirror- Styylish
Biedermeier Dressing Table Mirror – available on Styylish.com today!

Art Deco Vintage Mirrors

As we continue on into the 20th century, mirror popularity meets the art deco era. This era embraced bold geometric shapes, rich color, symmetry and exuberance. A piece like this Large Art Deco Wall Mirror showcases art deco sensibilities. The stunning high gloss black lacquer on oak is sure to take your breath away and emphasize the spaciousness of a room.

Large Art Deco Wall Mirror - Styylish
Luxurious Large Art Deco Wall Mirror- available for you today on Styylish.com

With original glass, this Art Deco Mirror with Walnut Veneer is another breathtaking example of art deco mirrors. The exterior walnut frame is hand-polished and has been kept in pristine condition. This angular and elegant mirror is unbeatable by modern creation standards.

Art Deco Mirror - Styylish
An incredible geometric Art Deco Mirror – all yours on Styylish.com!

Why You Really Need an Antique Mirror

There’s a reason that mirrors have such a rich history. They are incredibly important to human society, not just hundreds or thousands of years ago, but in the 21st century. Individuals in ancient Egypt found creative ways to craft mirrors, and the  upper class coveted the highly sought-after and expensive mirrors in the 17th century. Still today, we can understand why.

Mirrors provide so much for an interior space, from a full home to a studio apartment. They allow for additional light reflection from artificial or natural lighting sources, as well as perceived extension of space in both small and large rooms.

Take stock of the pieces you’ve seen today and how they can be combined with various interior design styles. Consider them complimentary unique eye-catching details in a modern, white interior. Or, you’ll find that you can pair these mirrors with complimentary design-era pieces and craft a rich aesthetic in your home. When in doubt, turn to Styylish and discover beautiful and high-quality pieces for your home.

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