How Are Mirrors Made? Fun Facts We Bet You Didn't Know

Deepthi Reddy
Nov 04, 2022 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa
The miracle of mirrors. Know how are mirrors made?
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

Mirrors are made by applying a reflective surface coating to the glass sheets.

The process of making mirrors is straightforward. Glass is a virtual object due to its transparency, rigidity, hardness, ease of fabrication, and ability to give a smooth touch.

Suitable materials mainly used to make mirrors include chrome, silver or aluminum, and gold. Presently, glass mirrors are mainly coated with non-toxic elements like aluminum and silver. Mirrors should be designed to be helpful.

The glass sheets used must be flat and long-lasting. For domestic use, search for thick mirrors; the strength should be proportionate to the thickness.

For mirrors used for scientific purposes, the mirror's surface should be designed so that it can maintain its uniformity with the addition of a curvature. This feature gives the mirror to focus and reflect the light and image as well.

Continue reading more on animals about how many legs does a centipede have? and how many legs do butterflies have? here on Kidadl.

History Of Mirrors

Mirrors are made by applying a coating surface on the glass sheet. So, the art of making modern mirrors was believed to have been invented in the first century AD.

But during that time, metal was costly, and it took time and skill to create a mirror. Therefore, it was considered a luxury item for ordinary people in ancient times, as they could not purchase it.

Only the wealthy could purchase. In the 16th century, mirrors were made from plates. Here's a brief history of the mirrors:

The first artificial mirrors were made from black volcanic glass or known as obsidian. Ancient Egypt was known to use polished copper/ obsidian to make mirrors. In China, mirrors were made from a mixture of tin and copper, known as speculum metal.

The Romans produced crude mirrors with lead backings made from blown glass. It is believed that the primitive people first saw their reflection in the water. The Romans made the oldest mirror in the world from polished stone like obsidian.

It is a volcanic glass that is good for reflecting surfaces. Samples of obsidian stone mirrors found date back to 6000 B.C in Anatolia, Turkey. There is also evidence that the people from Mesopotamia (Iraq) used metal mirrors built from copper around 4000 BC.

It is believed that Lebanon, during the first century AD made the first metal-coated glass mirrors. Through wars and trade ideas, Romans developed a technique to coat the blown glass with lead. From then, glass was chosen as the main component to develop mirrors as it was transparent, rigid, easily shaped, and affordable.

In 500 AD, China made coated mirrors by mixing silver and mercury. During the Renaissance period in Europe, the people there developed an excellent way of coating glass. In this method, a blend of silver- tin is used to make mirrors.

Finally, due to the industrial revolution, the secrets of coating glass with mercury eventually spread in Europe. In 1835, a German chemist known as Justus Von Liebig invented the silver glass, where a thin layer was deposited on the glass with the help of silver nitrate.

The silver nitrate was developed into a thin layer. This method of making mirrors by using silver nitrate was refined and contributed to mass production, and mirrors were quite affordable to buy.

As civilization evolved, technology also evolved with time. The search for quality mirrors is continued by humans.

Step By Step Process Of Making A Mirror

We all use mirrors every day in our life. Most even design their houses with mirrors everywhere that it is difficult to go anywhere without them.

It is truly unimaginable to live a life without mirrors. In order to create a mirror, you should just have clarity of the component to be used. Defective mirrors could lead to distortion of the image that is reflected.

Here is a simple mirror-making process to describe how mirrors are made.

Modern mirrors are made by the process of wet deposition of silver or aluminum. In this process, firstly, the glass substrate is cleaned and polished to remove the contaminants and the impurities present.

Then the glass is coated with tin chloride because silver does not attach directly with glass. The aluminum powder evaporates onto the surface in a vacuum chamber into liquid form.

A chemical activator is added to the process to harden the metal and a layer of copper to increase its durability. Now, the metal is coated with paint to avoid the damage of the glass when it is acid-washed and then treated in heat to deliver the finishing products.

Before 1940, the manufacturers of mirrors used mercury because it spread evenly and it did not scratch. But eventually, mercury was not used anymore as it gave rise to the problem of sealing in a toxic liquid.

Presently, in the process of mirror making, aluminum is used for the metal coating of the mirrors because it has the highest level of reflection.

There are many ways to coat the glass with the material you have chosen to make a mirror. In industries, glass is coated with metals that are boiled in extraordinary chambers.

The condensed metal is then placed onto the glass sheet to form a fragile layer. The thin layer is perfect for coating the glass. Even with a slight disturbance during the making, the mirror could crack.

The scientific mirrors are coated with other components like silicon nitrides and silicon oxides. In this process around 100 layers are applied.

This type of coating is known as dielectric coatings, which are used in reflectors. Silver and gold are used for coatings to reflect the light of a particular color. Only experts can give any shape to mirrors beautifully.

How to make a mirror at home?

How are mirrors made? The art of making mirrors.

Mirrors are an essential part of our life. We use it daily in our dressing rooms, vanities, and bathrooms. It is essential to polish the glass to make a mirror. Any impurities left on the glass would form waves in the mirror; as such, it would distort the image to be reflected.

Let's try to make a mirror at home all by ourselves: To make a mirror at home, remove the glass from a picture frame. Clean the glass thoroughly with the help of alcohol. Then use the spray paints, let them dry. After cleaning it thoroughly, apply five coatings of the paint. After each coat, wait to dry. 

Once the paint dries, put the glass back to the frame. In this way, you can produce stunning pieces of the mirror in the comfort of your home! But even a slight mistake could crack the mirror.

Raw Materials Used In Making A Mirror

Well! Glass, the main component in the making of the mirror, is a poor reflector of light. It is only able to reflect the image as only four per cent of the light hits the glass. However, it possesses uniformity when it is polished thoroughly.

Glass is also considered a suitable property because it can be molded into different shapes. Silica is used to make glass sheets as refining silica is accessible from the sand.

Interestingly glass is made from natural crystals of silica known as fused quartz. Synthetic glasses are known as synthetic fused silica. Good quality silica or the quartz to be used is melted in high temperatures and poured to form a thin sheet by means of a chemical reaction.

The components required to make a mirror include glass, aluminum, chrome, and bronze. Specialty mirrors are manufactured using different types of glass, and the components used for reflective surface coating are also different.

For scientific application, few other types of mirrors are used, and they usually contain other types of chemical components to make the glass resistant to any environmental conditions. For example, pyrex is a borosilicate glass which means it comprises both boron and silica.

These types of borosilicate glass are used to withstand extremely high temperatures and the latest technology is used for manufacturing.

The material used for reflective metal surface coating plays an essential role. Metals like chrome, gold, bronze, and silver are appropriate for coating perfectly. The silver mirror was used even 100 years backs, leading to the introduction of the term silvering, one of the best mirror-making techniques. The process of silvering is simple.

Silver-backed mirrors or silvering mirrors in the past have dark lines at the back of the glass. This is the process of silvering the modern mirror. Manufacturing complex mirrors requires skills.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how are mirrors made? then why not take a look at how long for duck eggs to hatch? or how are magnets made

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

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Shruti ThapaBachelor of Arts specializing in English

With a passion for American, British, and children's literature, Shruti is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree at Garden City University, Bengaluru. Her fluency in Nepali, Hindi, and Mandarin demonstrates her linguistic abilities and global perspective. In addition to her literary pursuits, she has a keen interest in non-fiction literature, aesthetics, early childhood education, and Egyptian history. Shruti's research paper 'Bringing Art Illustrations In Education And Pop Culture' showcases her proficiency in these areas and her dedication to academic excellence.

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