Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Conservation in Action - A Sterling Job

This week, we’ve been concentrating on metals again, but this time the silver from the Square Dining Room. Visitors to Petworth on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon last week would have seen us hard at work in the Marble Hall.

These solid silver wine coolers come from a set of four which currently stand on the side table along the south wall of the Square Dining Room. They were made by Paul Storr of London in 1814 and are decorated with the 3rd Earl of Egremont’s coat of arms. They were based on the Warwick Vase, an enormous antique marble which was once owned by the 2nd Earl of Warwick.

The same questions came up frequently whilst we were cleaning:

How do you clean the silver?

We start by flicking the dust off with a soft pony hair brush. The tarnish is removed by applying a small amount of Goddard’s silver dip with a cotton bud, which is then washed off with distilled water before being dried with paper towel.

Silver dip?! I've been told to not used silver dip?

We use the silver dip in a very controlled way. It is applied with a cotton bud or a barbeque skewer covered in cotton wool for the more intricate areas, and is immediately washed off with distilled water. Only a small area of the silver is worked on at a time so we can be sure all the dip is removed before we move on.

Caroline is using a barbeque skewer to get into the detail of the silver.

How often do you clean them?

As little as possible! We strive to maintain a suitable balance between keeping the silver aesthetically pleasing for our visitors whilst ensuring they are properly conserved and looked after. Taking off the tarnish means removing the top layer of the metal, so the silver is only cleaned when it really needs it. These specific wine coolers were last cleaned three years ago.

This photo shows how tarnished the piece had become over three years.

It was an absolute pleasure to work on these beautiful pieces of silver. Visitors often commented on the level of patience needed to work on the pieces, but we all found it very therapeutic!

Sarah Baldwin
Conservation Assistant

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