hand-crafted in Italy carved wood mirror with shell design and mirrored insets. Decorative mirror is finished in antique gold leaf
Italian style mirror
Neoclassic style vertical carved wood mirror with leaf scrolls design
Neoclassic style mirror
18th-century Italian style carved wood mirror in gold leaf finish
Italian style mirror
Adam style carved wood and wrought iron oval mirror with leaf drops and floral design
Adam style mirror
carved wood cheval mirror. This freestanding mirror mirror designed with scrolled leaf motif and has an antiqued medium brown finish with gold highlights. Mirror has beveled glass
Italian style cheval mirror 
18th-century Italian style carved wood mirror in gold leaf finish
Italian style mirror

beautiful mirrors

Mirrors Through the Ages

Sometime during the III Century B.C., the debut of a rounded, metallic implement forever changed human civilization: the mirror was born. The earliest mirrors were fashioned from bronze and silver, polished to a high sheen. Light bounced off the glossy surface, producing the reflection. The effect the invention had on these ancient peoples is a topic for speculation.

Seemingly, the mirror's arrival awakened something complex within them. These inner stirrings steadily manifested into a preoccupation with personal appearances. Today, some scholars draw parallels between the birth of the mirror and the acute development of specific human traits and behaviors: vanity and pride. Perhaps this is the reason ancient mirrors were often beautifully embellished with ornamentation. Perhaps the desired outcome from looking at an embellished mirror was to behold in it a reflection that was equally as easy on the eyes. These speculations aside, the intended purpose of the mirror is clear: as an implement of beauty, it reflects the image of the person before it, projecting radiance and vitality outward.

Thus, the mirrors became an indispensable household item.

By I Century B.C., the Romans upgraded the reflective qualities of the mirror. By applying liquid metal in thin layers to the back of a cut of glass, the reflection produced was remarkably clearer than the reflections produced by the earlier polished metal mirrors. This new technology also allowed the beholder to discern more details in the mirror's reflection, since the glass mirror distorted the image than its earlier counterparts.

With this refinement in design, the mystique of the mirror elevated to another level. The mirror became a symbol, sometimes attributed with mystical properties, and often the subject of philosophical meditations. As one account illustrates, the Greek philosopher Socrates, advised young men to stand before a mirror and contemplate their reflections. Those who beheld handsome faces in the glass should focus their energies on maintaining the purity of their souls. He advised them to proceed with caution, and steer clear from life's temptations that lead weaker souls astray from the path to a higher existence. However, he added, if a young man finds that he is not handsome, he should compensate for his physical shortcomings, through his heart, and procure recognition for his humanity and principles.


In the Medieval period, due to the mystical qualities they were associated with, glass mirrors were banished outright. The motivation behind the banishment of the mirror is understood through an examination of the cultural norm of the time. During these Dark Ages, a primitive brew of fear and superstition steeped alongside religious convictions. As a result, the mirror and the reflections mirrors produced became associated with the concept of polarity. The mirror'ss properties illustrated duality, like good and evil or heaven and hell. The allegory evolved into the belief that the mirror was a porthole, or a gateway from this world to the netherworld, where just on the other side of the mirror, Satan waits and watches the living. And so, the banishment of glass mirrors forced the fashionable to revert to the more primitive methods of viewing their reflections; returning to the polished metal mirrors or looking down into bowls filled with water.

True to the standards of the vogue of the early 12th century, a fashionable lady kept a small mirror on her person at all times. A woman of the times considered her handheld mirror or pears mirror an essential item to carry on her person at all times. Proper ladies wore gold embellished mirrors on a chain around the neck or waist, with an inserted mirror into the fens. Like precious pieces of jewelry, mirrors encased in specially crafted materials such as exotic turtle shell or frames of elephant bone, and mirrors wrought from gold or silver, with miniature engraved details illustrate the paramount regard ladies had for their mirrors.

Glass mirrors returned to the masses during the 13th century, this time bending slightly outward in a concave form. This resulted in a distorted reflection, but, after years of peering into polished metal and bowls of water for so long, it's likely that the people of this period didn't complain of the bowed image. The mirror's widespread popularity reached an apex in the year 1373, when the first mirror manufacturing plant opened in Nuremberg, Germany. By this time, people prominently displayed concave mirrors throughout the home and integrated mirrors in all aspects of everyday life.

Three centuries passed before cutting edge technology revolutionized the mirror on the Venetian Island of Murano in Italy. The mirrors produced from the skilled artisans of this island took the world by storm and would become some of the most highly sought after objects in history. To learn more about the colorful history of the Venetian Mirror, click here. - The Art of Venetian Mirrors

The passage of time has shown that history often repeats itself; and to study the history of the mirror proves that the mirror is no exception. Interestingly, the beliefs and concepts prevalent during the Middle Ages experienced a revival in 17th century Russia. Suddenly, mirrors and sin were synonymous. In the year 1666, the Orthodox Church prohibited the possession of mirrors by its priests. From that point on, superstition and speculation involving the ritualistic usage of mirrors in witchcraft, was accepted as truth by the majority. Even soldiers prescribed to superstitious notions; many soldiers carried mirrors as talismans to reflect away death. One superstition with direct ties to this period of history is the belief that a broken mirror will curse the clumsy person with bad luck for a stretch of seven years.

Venetian mirror  - Venetian glass mirror framed in hand-etched glass with gold highlights
Venetian glass mirror
Venetian mirror framed in hand-etched glass with gold highlights
Venetian glass mirror
Venetian mirror framed in hand-etched antiqued glass with gold highlights, trimmed with glass ribbons and rosettes
antiqued Venetian glass mirror
Venetian mirror framed in hand-etched glass with golden highlights. Venetian mirror trimmed with glass ribbons and rosettes
Venetian glass mirror
octagonal Venetian mirror with hand-etched glass. Venetian mirror trimmed with glass ribbons and rosettes
Venetian glass mirror
antique Venetian mirror framed in hand-etched glass with antiqued gold highlights, trimmed with glass ribbons and rosettes
antiqued Venetian glass mirror

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles
Mirrors Gallery, Palace of Versailles

It is obvious that the mirror's original purpose, to provide a reflective surface, is eclipsed by the multiplicity of uses peoples throughout the ages found for it. The mirror proved itself a worthy object of scrutiny and innovation. In the 15th century, a visionary named Leonardo da Vinci developed a secret coding system, featuring a mirror as the key element. Basically, da Vinci wrote script backwards in a “mirror reflection”. Without the aid of a mirror, the messages seemed undecipherable. Because of da Vinci's system, mirrors were used as a tool in the coding and decoding of secret messages. Spanish and French spies practiced the coding system for at least 200 years thereafter.

Mirrors possess elusive powers; the mirror's reflective properties captivate and enrapture us. Immediately after the introduction of mirrors to the world, the mirror's allure both enhanced and sometimes dominated human lives. The essence of the mirror is in its honesty, allowing the person gazing into it to see himself through the eyes of another. The mythology and folklore contribute to the auras of mirrors; a recognized object of fear, mirrors were immortalized in superstitions, legends, and folktales. Once elevated to that of a status symbol, the mirror aroused acts of passion and greed, and mirrors became objects of obsession. The mirror as a stimulant, acted as a catalyst, arousing creativity and inspiration.

  Louis XV style carved wood mirror with leaf design. Mirror has a hand painted medium brown finish and antiqued gold leaf accents
Louis XV over-mantel mirror

In contemporary times, a mirror is a commonplace object. Today, the mirror does not transmit a sense of intrigue or quality of enchantment to the one who stands before it. The purposes of mirrors are mainly utilitarian; standing before a mirror, you check your hair, straighten your clothes, and make sure there is nothing stuck in your teeth before hurrying off to work. Sometimes, though, the mirror tightens its grip on our gaze, holding our attention and turning it inward. Perhaps your next encounter with a mirror will result in a moment of contemplation, however fleeting. In your quiet acknowledgment, the mirror's mystique will be renewed, reinforcing the status of mirrors to that of the most extraordinary common objects in the home.

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18th-century style carved wood mirror with leaf scrolls and floral design
18th-century style mirror
18th-century Venetian style hand carved wood mirror with leaf and scroll design. Mirror finished in antique gold leaf
Venetian style mirror
18th century Italian style round carved wood mirror with sunburst design, antiqued goldleaf finish and beveled glass
Italian sunburst mirror
17th century Venetian style hand carved wood wall mirror with leaf and floral design. Wall mirror has an antiqued gold leaf and silver leaf finish
Venetian style mirror
18th century style carved wood mirror with antiqued goldleaf finish
18th century style mirror
Louis XV style mirror with leaf design. Mirror has a carved wood framed hand painted medium brown finish and antiqued gold leaf trim
Louis XV style mirror