|My review for JCK Book Club of:
The Guide to Evaluating Gold & Silver Objects
As a silversmith, any reference that will make me more knowledgeable about my field is essential reading. Such is the case with The Guide to Evaluating Gold & Silver Objects by Scott V. Martin. This book offers what others don't: detailed, clear and simple technical information on the precious metals and the best method(s) for determining actual precious metal content. Even a metallurgist will find this book useful.
Mr. Martin appraises, researches, lectures and writes about antique silver. His perspective provides the reader with a refreshing and practical approach on the subject of how to best evaluate objects made of gold and silver. In this guide, Mr. Martin shows us that there are many ways for readers to make a precious metal determination. He begins with non-invasive methods and then presents variations on the most commonly used invasive acid tests and proceeds to the new advanced scientific methods. His approach is very practical, such that the reader will be able to accomplish most of the testing methods themselves. He has also simply and clearly laid out his personal philosophy: if you are going to test an object for precious metal content, then know why a test is necessary and how to select the most appropriate testing method.
I keep this 100 page laminated cover spiral-bound reference close at hand. It is full of useful information, techniques and guidance. The Guide to Evaluating Gold and Silver Objects is a "must" for anyone involved in collecting, making, and identifying gold and silver. The following summarizes this book:
Chapter One give us an understanding of gold and silver in historical as well as scientific and mythological terms. You will find some interesting facts and information about gold and silver which can be use to dazzle your friends and clients.
Chapter Two deals with how to visually inspect the most often appraised objects: flatware, holloware, coins, and jewelry. This is obviously the most non-invasive method of determining an object's composition, and when used in conjunction with the extensive list of reference books in the appendix and the information in chapter three, the reader may be able to eliminate the need for any sort of invasive testing (i.e., nitric acid test).
Chapter Three discusses marks of standard, referring to the marks generally found on an object signifying its metal composition, such as "sterling" (92.5% fine silver and 7.5% copper), or the lower fine silver content of "coin" silver (90% fine silver and 10% copper), also known as "pure coin", "dollar", ".900" or "standard." This chapter also delves into the lesser understood electroplate marks, defining their terms and corresponding thicknesses. The foreign quality marks section is also very useful, for not all countries use the same terminology or alloys as the United States.
Chapter Four, the longest in the book, deals with gold and silver testing. The chapter starts by introducing us to the most simple and common empirical tests such as "feel", "flex", "heft", "ring-ping" and even "smell." The reader will find out how to properly administer these common field tests; it is also revealed which of these should not be relied upon. The balance of this chapter deals with 14+ tests, from the most commonly used but invasive acid tests, to the advanced electronic and scientific tests. Also included is the often overlooked but very informative specific gravity test. Most of these tests can be performed by or arranged by the reader.
Chapter Five discuses the various reasons for evaluating a precious metal object, such as for curiosity's sake, selling or acquiring a piece, insurance replacement, collectability etc.
Chapter Six gives one a thorough understanding of both the art and science of cleaning/polishing precious metal objects. The step by step instructions will insure that the seemingly elemental act of cleaning doesn't leave the object ruined and/or affect any of the test results.
The Appendix discusses the U.S. stamping laws, has very helpful tables and equivalents for units of measure, conversion
formulas, melting points, specific gravity tables and comparative weights of equal volumes. There are also appendixes which
present recommended references, books, associations and an extensive glossary.
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