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Subject: Mourning jewellery

Mourning jewellery

From: Alan Derbyshire <aland>
Date: Friday, December 21, 2001
Len Hambleton <lhambleton [at] moh__dcr__state__nc__us> writes

>Our museum has several oval lockets containing human hair on the
>verso, miniatures portraits of the deceased painted in, I suspect,
>watercolours on ivory. Over time static electricity has lifted and
>attached paint fragments to the glass . There is no obvious seal to
>break to gain access to clean and stabilize. Has anyone the secret
>on how these were made and how they can be opened.

The portrait miniatures you describe are  probably painted in
watercolour on ivory. They may not be mourning jewellery as such.
Many miniatures from this period have hair in the back. As for
opening the lockets I suggest you seek the help of a trained
miniature conservator. People sometimes turn to commercial jewellers
who may not appreciate the delicate nature of the ivory miniature.
There are various kinds of locket. The three main types are what I
would describe as 1.rolled edge (the glass is held in place by
burnishing the edge of the metal over the glass. To open requires
the re-lifting the metal using e.g. a fine razor blade ) 2. pinned
(the locket consists of two pieces of metal that are pinned at the
side. These pins may be difficult to see because they were often
burnished to make them less visible. The pins can be drilled or
tapped out but great care has to be taken not to damage the ivory
miniature or the locket itself). 3. push-fit (here the glass is
fitted as a rolled edge type but then the glass and metal rim simply
pushes over the miniature into the locket. The glass in its rim can
be levered out using your thumb nail or a non-metallic spatula to
avoid scratches.

Alan Derbyshire
Senior Conservator
V&A Museum

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:46
                 Distributed: Friday, December 21, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-46-002
Received on Friday, 21 December, 2001

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