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Subject: Labelling silver

Labelling silver

From: David Harvey <topladave>
Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Kate Weikert <kate.weikert [at] pam__org> writes

>I am an assistant registrar who needs information about proper
>methods to label silver objects.  Our current method is to coat a
>small patch with soluvar varnish, followed by the number in red or
>black india ink, then a final layer of the varnish.  As we are
>reevaluating our silver systems, I thought this would be an ideal
>time to see if this was still considered accepted practice or if
>there was an alternative method that is now considered safer for the
>object.  Any suggestions?

I would suggest avoiding using India Inks for labeling silver
objects as they are usually pigments (e.g. lampblack) mixed with
solvents and shellac. Thus you can smear the number when applying
your top coat or remove or reduce the coating layer when attempting
to remove the number. And I would also be a bit concerned about any
acid content in the ink - in my many years of treating silver
objects I have seen inked numbers etched into the silver surfaces.

What I used, when I was a museum metals conservator, was a base coat
of Acryloid B-72, then the accession number applied in a water
soluble ink or paint, then followed by a top coat of Acryloid B-67.
This made the entire system, and each layer, isolated and

I also found that on dark metals, such as iron and some bronzes,
that a lighter color was best, and on bright metals such as silver
or polished brass, that a darker color worked well. I once had a
great time hunting to find black accession numbers on archaeological
iron - and I also learned to also duplicate the accession number for
archaeological artifacts in the housing, as I have seen post-lab
processing corrosion and deterioration literally explode the
relevant numbers off the surfaces--no fun!

David Harvey
Griswold Conservation Associates

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:58
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 1, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-58-002
Received on Tuesday, 30 May, 2006

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