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by Archaeology Newsroom

Physicochemical Investigation of Metal Threads in Historic Textiles

Textile objects answer many and various needs of man and have been made by a great variety of materials. The metals used for making metal threads, employed since antiquity for the decoration of precious textiles, represent a special group of materials with many peculiarities. The simultaneous presence of disparate materials, such as the non-organic metals and the organic fibers and dyes, makes the conservation work problematic and complex, both technically and ethically. The examination of the morphology and the clear chemical identification of all the material components of the textile is a necessary prerequisite, before the beginning of any conservation work. The results of such a preliminary examination of composite metal threads and sequints of the eighteenth and nineteenth century are presented in this article. Among the methods used was the microscopic investigation of the morphology of the threads, the identification of the visual fibers of their nucleus and dye, the electronic inspection {SEM) of the surface morphology and state of preservation of the metal threads, as well as the analysis (AAS) of the chemical composition of the metal materials. The results of the examination and the information drawn facilitate the technical and historical decoding of the textile objects and help the conservator to reach well documented decisions as regards the kind and extension of any intervention. Finally, they give the possibility of controlling the short- and long-term effectiveness and security of the conservation methods applied.