Metallographic examination of ancient silver alloys

Ann Heywood and H. L. Croome


A metallographic examination can be a valuable tool for understanding the manufacture, history and condition of metal objects. There is, however, little collected data or good documentation of the microstructures of silver alloys, partly as a result of the extreme ductility of silver which makes its structure easily disturbed and altered. In this paper, a simple method for preparing artifact-free polished and etched samples of silver-copper alloys for metallographic and scanning electron microscope examination will be outlined. Special consideration will be given to the examination of ancient silver alloys, with an emphasis on the discontinuous precipitation of copper in aged samples. Photomicrographs and scanning electron microscope photographs of artificially prepared and ancient alloys will be used to illustrate the types of structures discussed.

1989 | Cincinnati