We take our reflections for granted. To us, a beautiful mirror is just an accent - a decorating detail. It was not always so inconsequential.
For hundreds of years, Venetians jealously guarded a monopoly on making reflective glass. In the 16
century, the cost of a single Venetian mirror is estimated to be the equivalent of a present day battle ship. When French nobility "stole" three Italian craftsmen to teach the process to the makers of Versailles Hall of Mirrors, the Venetians sent agents to poison the workers.
Throughout history, mirrors served many valuable purposes. As a weapon for spies, Da Vinci created the "backwards writing" that could only be read using a mirror. And during the Thirty Years War soldiers used mirrors to reflect sunlight into the eyes of their enemies, thus blinding them during military actions.
The mirror-making process was just becoming widespread in the 1890s when this mirror was created. Victorians, eager to emulate their wealthy predecessors, sought mirrors for their homes to hang in prominent locations.
More than 100 years later, this mirror's oxidation is the result of more than a century of cleaning - allowing the slightest extra moisture to seep into the wooden backing. "Flaws" like these are what identify an early mirror as genuine - to say nothing of softening and warming the reflection just enough to enhance any room.