Tagged ‘silver’


April 25th, 2008 by Tricia

A few weeks ago Carolyn left a note in the forum about her silver lace thread tarnishing. I sent Tricia a note about it, and then Carolyn and Tricia corresponded. Tricia sent me a copy, thinking the subject and her answer would be of interest. Has anyone else had such a serious tarnishing problem with this thread or another?

I believe that the wooden box Carolyn mentions storing her lace threads in is a divided carrier from Orleans Carpenters. If you have one or are getting one of the Embroiderers’ Story ones, think about not storing silver threads in it.

Dear Tricia,

The silver thread for the lace sample is what tarnished. When I finished the sample piece I left the thread on the bobbins, with the clips on and the loose ends hanging off. The bobbins were left in an open wooden box, so they were exposed to room light, etc. Last week I got them out to set up a new piece with the leftover thread and saw that all the thread that was exposed, loose or on the top layer of the wound area not under the clip, had tarnished to a dark gray with rainbow accents – looks somewhat like those iridescent
metallics. Because the core is white it really showed up like candy stripe – my thread has many sections that does not have very tight coverage by the silver so lots of white shows through. Those sections were also much more stiff/brittle than the untarnished

I was inquiring on the forum because I wasn’t sure if the tarnish was part of the design plan, to be more authentic looking. I’ve held off on starting my new piece because it was going to be edging for a sachet, and would be exposed, so I am debating if I want the
tarnished look or not. I may modify plans to make something that would go under glass for better protection – but then I lose the glittery effect of the gold thread and moving parts with the oes.

Do you have advice on the best way to prevent the oxidation? Is it mostly light, moisture, or oxygen that causes it?

Carolyn W
Carolyn -

Sulfur is the main agent that tarnishes silver and the concentration of sulfur accelerates the tarnishing. There are different % of sulfur in different media – from the air (light) to skin and skin oils (higher) to certain woods and wood by-products (paper) which can be
pretty high. Some plastics will have sulfur concentrations depending on the plastic. The goals is to reduce the exposure to high sulfur contact to prolong the tarnish process, which will happen.

We choose the highest silver content (90%) thread as it will last the longest under good conditions. I will say that I have a spool of this thread that I bought in 2002 and it is still bright except for a light, light tarnish on the little bit peeking out from under the acid-free tissue it is wrapped with. I have other silver threads under glass that are now tarnished but took about 10-15 years to get that way. They are now 25 yrs old but not fully black – more brown.

My first guess is that the wooden box is the culprit here. When you got the kit, we had it wrapped on acid-free board with acid-free tissue around it to put it in the best conditions possible for storage. I am sorry that I hadn’t written a blog or something in the directions about storage of the silver. We debated about silver or false silver for the project. The GST is done in gold wire and not silver strip like the original jacket partly for that reason.

Mark, as a metals person, pointed out to us that the culture at the time would have understood that the silver would go black over time and would have accepted it as part of the process because they didn’t have any other option. Their value system relating to the materials would have accepted that. The big question comes, how fast did it happen on those beautiful pieces! Therefore we decided to work with original materials. We have options today and so fret about it.

I have been trying to track down a certain journal article written about a simple set of lab tests that can be done on paper products to ascertain the relative sulfur content. It was written to give museum curators a scale of test results to use to test display and storage
materials for silver and silver plate pots, etc. Everytime they are polished, a layer of silver is removed. So some materials are ok for short term display but not for long term storage. I need to try a few more libraries to get it – maybe the MFA library next. I am not sure how difficult the tests are for the home embroiderer to test her storage, pricking paper, etc.

I hope this explains things. I am so sorry that a layer of the silver has tarnished. I would suggest that you take a tarnish felt and wipe the surface and see if that removes it. I was able to remove a layer easily off my jewelry the other day with one.


The Gilded Lily

April 21st, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here is a photo of the back of the jacket, taken last Friday, April 18.

The back of the jacket as of April 18.This is the piece Tricia took home with her before our inaugural embroidery session last June. She had to work one of each motif, taking detailed photos of the steps in order to produce that fantastic instruction manual. That’s why she chose this piece, it has the biggest unbroken section of the master pattern. So for a while this piece had the most done on it, but since then the other parts have more or less caught up.

Before that first session she did instructions for several motifs, plenty to get us started, but only the plain silk ones; at the time we didn’t have any GST, it was still only a good idea, remember? CAN you remember before GST? She’s been adding motifs since then, first the ones that used only bisse, redde and carnation as those were the first three colors we got. Since then she’s been keeping ahead of what the embroiderers are doing, adding a new motif pretty much for every new session. Want to join us in May and see what new flower we’ll have?

At some point pretty early on Tricia started to work the bird in the middle of the back and then stopped because she thought there was a lot going on there and wanted some detailed pictures. I just got an email from her the other day, saying she’d been examining some of those detailed pictures and it seems there’s gold AND silver threads in the bird, and did we want to do that? It would mean tarnish eventually, not to mention sourcing the silver and the expense. Of course I said no. Why go to the trouble? The gold will be plenty.

I’M JUST KIDDING. Absolutely we’ll have silver too. We don’t know what “over the top” means.

Wire Drawer

March 12th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Tonight Wendy continues to tell about her investigations into how spangles were made in the past. These descriptions come from post-1620 sources. The methods and techniques described may very well have continued unchanged for decades or even centuries, but unless we find some pre-1620 sources, we won’t be able to know for sure. However, the written evidence, even from later sources, combined with the physical evidence of the early 17th-century spangles that Tricia, Wendy and Mark studied, can give us many clues as to how the sparklies were made.

So what does a “Wire Drawer” do? Well he/she draws wire, but we didn’t need to know the specifics for all types of wire, just precious metal. While the definitions are similar some of the tools are different as well as the terms and of course the products….. so here is what I hope is a picture of this craft.

The art of the Wire Drawer includes the manufacture of wire (thread), purls, plates, spangles and oes. Gilt wire started with “sterling” silver. Sterling means the silver was alloyed with copper to ensure that it would not fracture as it was worked. The sterling was then “drawn” or stretched into a finer and still finer diameter wire. Once it reached a certain specific size, gold leaf from the “Gold Beaters” (makers of Gold leaf) was applied until the gold layer reached a thickness of one-fiftieth of an inch. The gold leaf was then fused to the sterling and that was further drawn out to the necessary size. If “plate “ were the desired result, the wire would be run through a “rolling mill” (two smooth and polished gear driven rollers) to flatten it.

We suspect that at this point spangles could be made, individual spangles being cut or punched from the plate.

If the illustrations and the process originally described in Art of the Embroiderer by Charles Germain de Saint- Aubin, Designer to the King 1770 (and also quoted by Gail Marsh) are correct then the creation of spangles once the flat stock or “plate “ was made was a two step process. First the stock was pierced at intervals to create the small hole for hanging, then the “spangle tool” was used to cut out the shaped spangle (in this case a tear drop). The shape of the tool and descriptions call for the “spangle’ to emerge from the top – this would allow the worker to rapidly hammer out (cut or punch) a quantity before having to tip out the punch of its finished contents. This would also explain the nips seen in several of the spangles that Tricia has viewed as well as some of the spangles having more of a straight edge on one side (it’s the human touch).

It should be mentioned that wire drawers were also responsible in large part for the actual spinning of the gilt silk threads. The gilt was “spun” (wrapped) around the silk core by “spinners” a specific job within the field of Wire Drawing.

George Bernard Hughes in his book, Living Crafts- 1896 describes it this way:

It now became possible to make gold and silver thread, flattening the finely drawn wire by passing it through rollers and twisting those around a core of silk by means of a wheel operated twisting machine. These spun threads, much less expensive to produce than wires of solid gold or silver, were sufficiently flexible to be used for making lace as well as for wearing and embroidery.” He also mentions that “at first the new thread was known as ‘sewing gold’ and in 1592 cost 5 shillings an ounce”.

I’m terrible at math but I wonder what that would cost in today’s money? Does anyone know?

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