Early Medieval silver pearl from Lumbe's garden cemetery at Prague Castle: Composition, manufacture, deterioration, and conservation

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Jirˇí Děd; Estelle Ottenwelter; Ludmila Šejvlová;

Source:

Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number 3, p.174-183 (2016)

Abstract:

As part of our grant-funded research into the metallic artefacts excavated in Lumbe's garden cemetery at Prague Castle (a site where the members of the nobility were buried during the early Medieval period), a silver pearl (grave 100, object 27) dating from the ninth century and found in a grave of one of the wealthiest individuals was investigated. Scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, metallographic examination, and the manufacture of a replica enabled us to identify the process of the pearl's manufacture, the material which was used for its fabrication, and the extent of the pearl's deterioration. The pearl is a masterpiece of filigree and granulation work. Analyses have shown the nature of the soldering technique and the types of materials used by early Medieval craftsmen to manufacture it. The analyses also highlighted the nature of the pearl's deterioration, involving intergranular corrosion resulting in the embrittlement of the silver, as well as indications of an aggressive restoration treatment which had been performed on the pearl.