the Mercury Convex Mirror

In All, Mirrors by Arif

The Mercury convex mirror is made of layers of four colors of transparent Venetian glass rods. Surrounding the mirror is a ring of  plexiglass spheres.  The frame is gilded with silver to “back light” the glass.

This mirror is about 24 inches in diameter.    It is currently in my studio pending being shipped to my New York showroom, Profiles.  Contact Russell Raiteri at 212-689-6903 if you are interested.

Jewelry for walls.

The silvery colors of the Mercury mirror were inspired by the chemical element Mercury, Hg 80.  Mercury is the only element that is a liquid metallic under standard conditions.  Derived from cinnabar, Mercury is used in many modern devices such as thermometers, borometers and fluorescent/neon lights.  Many of us have played with the slippery pearls of Mercury that are taken from broken thermometers.  However, Mercury is toxic and should not be trifled with.

Mercury (also known as calomel or mercurous chloride) has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, topical disinfectant, and laxative.  Mercury was once used to treat syphilis(along with other mercury compounds), although it is so toxic that sometimes the symptoms of its toxicity were confused with those of the syphilis it was believed to treat.  Blue Mass, a pill or syrup in which mercury is the main ingredient, was prescribed throughout the 19th century for numerous conditions including constipation, depression, child-bearing and toothaches. In the early 20th century, mercury was administered to children yearly as a laxative and de-wormer, and it was used in teething powders for infants. The mercury-containing  Mercurochrome is still widely used but has been banned in some countries such as the U.S.

In the 1400s a technique for using Mercury in mirrors was invented in Venice.  This form of silvering would remain in use for 400 years. The technique is to flatten out pieces of glass obtained from blown glass cylinders with a stone. Once they are flat, several layers of tin were deposited on the glass plates and then sanded down to a smooth surface. Finally, it is covered with a layer of mercury, also smoothed and flattened out with a stone and woolen stamps.  The Venetians kept this secret for centuries and the craftsmen involved were prevented from leaving Venice on penalty of death.  Of course, this technique for mirroring was poisonous.

Some Venetian mirror makers did manage to find refuge in France in the 16th century.  They helped create the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.


Mercury is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the original twelve major gods within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.

Specially given that Mercury is the god of communication and travelers, he is an iconic image in art.

The “Glory of Commerce”( 1914) designed by Jules-Felix Coutan for the Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The huge limestone intaglio of Mercury by Lee Lawrie( 1933) at Rockefeller Center in New York

And, of course, there’s the planet Mercury.