Man has always been fascinated by his own reflection. The earliest forms of antique mirrors were fashioned out of polished surfaces and mysterious black obsidian used ritually around 4000 BC. The Chinese developed polished bronze mirror surfaces about 2000 BC.
The discovery of glassblowing techniques in the early Christian era was further developed in the 13th century with Venice, and particularly Murano, at it’s centre. Techniques initially were kept secret on pain of death but then spread to the rest of Europe.
Around 1400 the process for backing plate glass with mercury alloys developed. This method produced dangerous, highly toxic, hazardous vapours leaving many working in the industry severely handicapped. Later processes combined silvering.
The early production of English antique mirrors was focused in Vauxhall, south of the river in London.
Initially it was impossible to float glass in large sections so many early plates were divided and came with a distinctive broad, polished bevel. Often the reflective quality was poor with much distortion leaving the mirror plate looking more like polished steel.
As the technique progressed fashionable carvers and frame makers emerged. Styles developed as fashions dictated.
See a carved Chippendale period giltwood looking glass at :
The 17th century saw increased production of antique mirrors. The designs of ‘Looking glasses’, as they came to be called, reaching great heights during the ‘age of elegance’, the 18th century.
Geoffrey Wills illustrated book on ‘English Looking Glasses, a Study of the Glass Frame and Makers 1670-1820’ Is well worth consulting.
Also the V & A have a fine collection of antique English Mirrors.
Specialist restorers of antique mirrors :