Fire gilding and silvering are age-old mercury-based processes used to coat the surface of less precious substrates with thin layers of gold or silver. In ancient times, these methods were used to produce and decorate different types of artefacts, such as jewels, statues, amulets, and commonly-used objects. Gliders performed these processes not only to decorate objects but also to simulate the appearance of gold or silver, sometimes fraudulently. From a technological point of view, the aim of these workmen over 2000 years ago was to make the precious metal coatings as thin and adherent as possible. This was in order to save expensive metals and to improve the resistance to the wear caused by continued use and circulation. Without knowledge about the chemical-physical processes, the ancient craftsmen systematically manipulated these metals to create functional and decorative artistic objects. The mercury-based methods were also fraudulently used in ancient times to produce objects such as jewels and coins that looked like they were made of silver or gold but actually had a less precious core. These coins were minted by counterfeiters but also by the official issuing authorities. The latter was probably because of a lack of precious metals, reflecting periods of severe economic conditions. In this Account, we discuss some representative cases of gold- and silver-coated objects, focusing on unique and valuable Roman and Dark Ages period works of art, such as the St. Ambrogio's altar (825 AD), and commonly used objects. We carried out the investigations using surface analytical methods, such as selected area X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy combined with energy-dispersive spectroscopy. We used these methods to investigate the surface and subsurface chemical features of these important examples of art and technology, interpreting some aspects of the manufacturing methods and of disclosing degradation agents and mechanisms. These findings may contribute to cultural heritage preservation, thus extending the applicability of the surface analytical techniques.
Ancient Mercury-Based Plating Methods: Combined Use of Surface Analytical Techniques for the Study of Manufacturing Process and Degradation Phenomena / Gabriel Maria Ingo; Giuseppe Guida; Emma Angelini; Gabriella Di Carlo; Alessio Mezzi; Giuseppina Padeletti. - In: ACCOUNTS OF CHEMICAL RESEARCH. - ISSN 0001-4842. - STAMPA. - 46:11(2013), pp. 2365-2375. [10.1021/ar300232e]
|Titolo:||Ancient Mercury-Based Plating Methods: Combined Use of Surface Analytical Techniques for the Study of Manufacturing Process and Degradation Phenomena|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2013|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ar300232e|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|