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Author Topic:   An interesting survey

Posts: 4121
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 01-18-2001 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following is taken from the essay "X-ray flourescence of California Silverwares" by John Burke in the excellent "Silver in the Golden State" published by the Oakland Museum. 18 random pieces of silver flatware made and/or retailed by San Francisco silversmiths were tested for silver content with the following results:

  1. Cincinnati tablespoon by Eaves & Nye
    (c 1850-1860) -- 882.5/1000
  2. Cincinnati teaspoon by Eaves & Nye
    (c 1850-1860) -- 890.6/1000
  3. Plain Tip't teaspoon by Lawler
    (c 1860) -- 830.6/1000
  4. Eugene teaspoon by Koehler & Ritter
    (c 1860) -- 900.1/1000
  5. Bead teaspoon by Vanderslice
    (c1860) -- 905.4/1000
  6. Eugene teaspoon by Reichel
    (before 1868) -- 876.3/1000
  7. Medallion teaspoon by Koehler & Ritter
    (c 1860) -- 745.2/1000
  8. Antique tablespoon* by Schultz & Fisher
    (c 1870) -- 886/1000
  9. Gothic teaspoon by Reichel
    (c 1870) -- 880.3/1000
  10. Gargoyle tablespoon by Vanderslice
    (before 1875) -- 898.5/1000
  11. Comstock teaspoon** by Vanderslice
    (before 1875) -- 742.8/1000
  12. Gargoyle teaspoon by Vanderslice
    (before 1875) -- 906/1000
  13. Marin tablespoon by Koehler & Ritter
    (c 1870) -- 893.6/1000
  14. Plain Tip't teaspoon by Lawler
    (c 1870) -- 910/1000
  15. Medallian teaspoon** by Schultz & Fischer
    (c 1870) -- 905.5/1000
  16. Faralone teaspoon** by Schultz & Fischer
    (c 1870) -- 899.8/1000
  17. Comstock Grape teaspoon by Vanderslice
    (after 1875) -- 916.4/1000
  18. 5Star teaspoon** by Schultz & Fischer
    (c 1880) -- 881.2/1000

* marked "coin"
** marked "sterling"

It is interesting to note that a similar survey of the colonial collection at Winterthur found only a handful of pieces that did not meet or exceed the British sterling standard. As can be seen, not one of these pieces specifically marked for purity met the stated standard -- the Vanderslice Comstock teaspoon being particularly off. One has to wonder, given that much of "California" silver was actually bought in bulk from East coast wholesalers, if this discrepancy between asserted purity and reality was a matter of intent or indifference on the part of the retailers.

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11520
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 01-20-2001 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have had some experience with commercial X-ray fluorescence testing and have found that there are a lot of variables which can effect the results. For example:

  1. How (and/or how well) the device is calibrated.
  2. What area or areas of the object are tested.
  3. Whether only the surface is tested or a sampling of the sub-surface is tested.
  4. The condition of the object and how it was prepared (cleaned) before testing.
  5. Etc. etc. etc.

What would be interesting is for institutions which do this type of testing to share the same set of objects to test and then we might have a baseline for comparison.

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