Thursday, July 7, 2011

Buffing Silver

The last several days I have spent spreading out on my dining table many pieces of  intriguing Yemeni jewelry and a few strings of glass trading beads from Africa as well.   In preparation for photographing all the pieces, the silver should be rubbed gently with a rouge cloth and then a finishing cloth.  This brings out the metal glow -- silver or silver with gold wash -- but leaves the antique patina.

My fingers become discolored from the oxidation that is removed in the buffing process, but it is a pleasure to see the soft shine of the pieces as they are laid out awaiting their photo op.

Sometimes buffing offers a real surprise.  A piece picked up for a song from a Yemeni owner or from a dealer will sometimes reveal itself as high quality silver.  Two days ago, I unpacked the metal components of a very old typical necklace from Yemen.  Not expecting much, I wrapped the rouge cloth around my index finger and brushed lightly across the plaque (a separator for multiple strands of beads) and the q'tub (amulet) hanging from it.

The gold wash lighted up under just a slight brushing by the rouge cloth.  By the time I had finished the 3 plaques with fertility symbols hanging from them and the triangular end pieces also with extra symbols, I realized that this was a special piece.  The quality of the workmanship matches the quality of the metal.  The plaques have lines of granulation setting off small inlays of coral, and an added diamond shape that is widely used in Yemen jewelry.

The fertility symbols are very detailed as well.  I replaced three tiny inlaid pieces of coral that had fallen out of a plaque and a q'tub.  Otherwise the metal components are all there for someone to add beads to an important cultural artifact of  19th century Yemen.

No comments:

Post a Comment