Mirrors are one of those ordinary objects around our homes that are so common we don’t even think about. We do our morning primp and pomp looking in our washroom mirror or vanity.
Our entryways usually have one so we can give ourselves a last look upon dashing out the door.
We put decorative mirrors on mantles as statement pieces in living areas and foyers to open and bloom the rooms, light dances off the corners, opening the space, and filling it with a calming softness.
And let’s not forget my favorite trick: growing snug spaces with mirrors, pulling open the size of your room!
New mirrors are something we take for granted, as we scour antique shops and flea markets for curious and antique pieces, but the actual history of the mirror is terribly interesting. Without mirrors, we could not create technological feats and tools like cameras, lasers, and telescopes that help us better understand our universe. So, from polished pieces of stone that ancient woman used to check her teeth, to Alice In Wonderland’s jump from the looking glass into an otherworldly adventure, mirrors have a wild and luxurious backstory.
Archaeologists have discovered rocks as early as 4000 BC that our forefathers polished and used as reflective surfaces. This was a common thing to do, even after the Romans developed an early version of a glass mirror around the First Century. As far as mirrors go, The Middle Ages were still “the dark ages”, since the pope condemned mirrors because of the temptation toward vanity. Can you imagine? Not seeing yourself unless you looked into your own bathwater? Common people adopted this point of view and nary was a mirror to be found until a glass-blowing revival during the Renaissance of the 14th century. The center of the glass-blowing world was Murano, Italy. Venetian craftsman labored toward an intense and secret process of perfecting white-hot glass into artistic masterpieces. Only they knew the practice of creating mirrors, and they guarded this hush-hush method with tight-lips. Because of this, Venetian mirror-makers were revered, world-wide, as design celebs. Their pieces were tokens of an outrageous and luxurious lifestyle—impossible to buy unless you were one of the few rich kings or noblewomen.
They were so exorbitantly expensive, mirrors were THE status symbol of the Renaissance. Forget Ferraris and other expensive cars, the elite saved and sold until, they too, could possess this profile of prestige. It was normal to give a gift of a mirror to foreign dignitaries as a symbol of a kingdom’s wealth. Some French noblemen would even sell their sailing ships or country retreats only to afford a small mirrored piece!
But eventually, the Venetian secret escaped. The French bribed the recipe out of three Venetian craftsmen and cracked the code. The French even improved on the technique to create larger sheets of mirror, adjusting the blown-glass method by laying down sheets of glass on a table and combining the glass with a reflective mercury element. It is this mercury that give us that vintage antique look with its flakes, pits, and hazy, dark areas.
Now that more mirrors became available, they were used for to spy codes, periscopes, and signaling over distances. Even though more people had access, they were still very, very expensive. As a one of the biggest flaunts in history, Louis XIV went on to create the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Boasting 306 mirrors, this was a modern wonder of the world!
England and America finally caught up and adopted the French system of mirror-making in the late 1770’s. Glass slowly became more available to the mass-market around this time and after. This was a gigantic sigh of relief, as importing mirrors from France had a gargantuan tax attached. So because of this tax, antique mirrors were very popular in the early part of the 18th century. Think about it: it was much easier for people to upcyle an old mirror, without shipping in a new French one—saddled with a crazy-heavy tax.
So for three hundred years, folks have spent a pretty penny on furnishing their homes with antique mirrors—but I have decoded the secret to creating this look from scratch! In ancient times, a person that tried to turn lead into gold was called an “alchemist”. I have discovered a foolproof process that brings the luxury of antique mirror into your home. Not only that, but you will enjoy the bragging rights as you take a new mirror and add the diamond dusting, blemishes, beauty marks, and the hazy, pocked-marked patina.
- Real silver mirror (Made in USA is a must! Many overseas mirrors are not real silver, so the process will not work!)
- Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Stripper™
- Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Solution™
- Amy Howard At Home® One Step Paint™ in Black
- Sponge/Rollers Brushes (1 per every 2 mirror tile. 1 for painting)
- Multiple Lint-Free T-Shirt Rags
- Simple Green™ Degreasing Cleaner
- Water Tubs
- Brown Kraft Paper
- Stripping Gloves
- Safety Goggles
Find a well-ventilated area for working. Also, you will need a water source for rinsing mirror during antiquing process. Work area should be protected by plastic tarp, or some area which will not be damaged by Mirror Stripper. Temperature must be between 70-80°F for optimal processing conditions.
1. Take each mirror piece and place face down on a non-abrasive surface.
2. Put on safety goggles and appropriate gloves to protect body from the Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Stripper™.
3. Shake the Mirror Stripper very well and apply a nice, even coat of the product to the paint on back of mirror. Using sponge brush or paint roller, promptly roll out stripper until coverage is even.
4. As a chemical reaction is achieved, backing paint will begin to bubble up and it will be ready to remove when all the backing paint has bubbled up. *This can take up to 10 minutes.
5. If certain areas are not bubbling, apply more Mirror Stripper to those areas, then agitate with foam brush. *The stripper will eat through the foam of the brush, so you will need to work quickly.
6. Take a piece of kraft paper, slightly larger than mirror, and lay it on the bubbled mirror backing paint and lightly smooth it out - holding with one hand while smoothing with the other.
7. Slowly lift the kraft paper away from you. The backing paint will affix itself to the kraft paper and lift up with it. *The mirror’s actual silver is now exposed. Be very careful not to scratch the silver during the following processes.
8. Once the backing paint is removed, apply a light second coat of Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Stripper™ to remove the copper color and texture left behind after removing the kraft paper. *Work quickly, but take care to not scratch silver while using foam brush. Brush WILL scratch mirror.
9. Spray mirror with Simple Green™ degreaser prior to rinsing in water tub. This aids in the removal of the excess Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Stripper™.
10. Use water to rinse the stripper from mirror. Use T-Shirt rag to help remove any remaining Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Stripper™. Do not use paper towels, as they can be too rough. *You can use a plastic container filled with water, or even rinse with a water hose if in an area where water can run off and stripper will not run into ground water (as on a concrete area where product would be evaporated).
11. Shake Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Solution™ very well, and pour into a small plastic container or styrofoam bowl. *Working atop white paper will help you see this better.
12. Moderately saturate T-shirt rag with the Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Solution™.
13. Apply over entire piece by patting and pouncing the rag in a randomized, organic pattern. *Do not use an organized, specific pattern.
14. Once you have covered all of the silver with the rag, apply solution from bottle in small “S” patterns and small circles.
15. After a few minutes, the mirror’s silver will begin to change color. Lift up your mirror to look at the other side to see how the process is progressing.
16. Continue to apply more Mirror Solution to promote the antiquing process. Eventually solution will begin to wear away silver and expose glass. Continue checking the front of the mirror to see desired effect. This process can take up to 30 minutes, but is dependent on environmental temperature (the warmer the work area, the faster the process). *For a darker antique mirror, continue application of solution.
17. When mirror has reached desired effect, rinse off the Amy Howard At Home® Antique Mirror Solution™ with water and allow to dry. *Remember to check the front of your mirror reflecting on white paper to see how much the mirror has distressed!
18. Using a paint roller, apply three, thin coats of black Amy Howard At Home® One Step Paint™ onto the silver side. This will seal the mirrors.
30. Now you get to Enjoy the Bragging Rights™!