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Silver Plating on Copper, Bronze and Brass

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2011

Extract

Silver has generally been valued second only to gold from at least as early as 2000BC. A material which is highly prized becomes a status symbol and cheaper imitations find a ready market. Craftsmen very early developed methods of applying thin layers of silver onto base metal as an economical use of precious metal, whether for its decorative effect or, particularly in the case of plated coins, to deceive the customer. Unfortunately, silver plating is less commonly preserved than gold plating, and corrosion at the interface between the silver and base metal may destroy the evidence of how the plating was applied. The situation is complicated because many of the white metal surfaces on pieces labelled as ‘silvered’ are in fact produced by tin, or more rarely, by arsenic. Nevertheless, there are still sufficient surviving examples to indicate that silver plating has a long history during which techniques were developed to give better results and to allow more economical use of the precious metal.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 1990

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References

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29 Kindly lent by Dr Paul Robinson, Curator of Wiltshire Archaeological Society Museum Reg. no. 1987.316.1.

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40 It mus t be remembered that traces of mercury may be present as the result of polishing with a silver cleaning powder containin g mercury. Vincent Daniels (pers. comm.) has pointed out that Mrs Beeton in the first edition of her book on Household Management (London, 1859, part 21, para. 2316, 995) warned against the use of such polishes. Also mercury may be left as a residue of preparation process for electroplating known as ‘quicking’;Google ScholarThe Canning Handbook on Electroplating, 22nd edition (Birmingham, 1978), 612Google Scholar.

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