Mysteries and Riddles: "Muddy" Way of Mirror Technology


Around the 15th century, in Venice, mirrors were made using a rather complicated labor-consuming technology: the amalgam of tin-foil and mercury was superimposed on the reverse side of the glass.

Venetians strictly kept the secrets of their mirrors. All glassblowers were moved to Murano Island to make it easier to watch upon them. There is a version that the Venetians outbid the secrets of the Flemings, who first came up with this method.
In fact, Venice received a monopoly on mirrors, at one time their export was even banned.

Murano Glass Mirror, 18th Century.
Murano Glass Mirror, 18th Century.

This led to a fantastic price increase. The mirrors were fabulously expensive, and Venice got rich on that. Do I have to say that each mirror was decorated with a rich frame of precious woods and precious metals and stones? The price of a single mirror from Venice was simply off the scale. The meter mirror was sold for 70 thousand French livres, while the paintings of Raphael were worth a maximum of 3 thousand. Instead of one such mirror, one could buy a whole ship! Therefore, mirrors were available only to kings and the elite.

Mirror from Venetian Murano Glass, 19th Century.
Mirror from Venetian Murano Glass, 19th Century.

It is worth noting that the production of those mirrors was dangerous and detrimental to health due to the use of mercury. But their quality was very mediocre: the mirrors were muddy.

The famous mod king Louis XIV was a big fan of mirrors. By instructions of Louis several masters of mirror business were enticed away to France. The secret of making mirrors had been revealed! Themselves these masters, however, in the best traditions of those times, were poisoned by Venetians for divulging secrets.

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