October 12, 2011
First Practical Scientific Test To Date And Authenticate Priceless Silk Masterpieces
Scientists are reporting development of the first fast and reliable scientific method to determine the age and authenticity of priceless silk tapestries and other treasures -- such as Civil War General Phillip Sheridan's famous red-and-white battle flag -- in museums and other collections around the world. A report on their work appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Mehdi Moini and colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution point out that for thousands of years, silk fibers, consisting of natural protein unwound from the cocoons of the silkworm, have been woven into not just garments, but wall hangings, tapestries, carpets and painted silk artworks. Until now, however, there has been no practical scientific way to tell whether a silk tapestry is a well-preserved example from the Fontainebleu series from the 1540s or a copy made just last week. In many cases, scientists could not use the familiar carbon-14 dating process, because it involves taking samples of material large enough to cause visible damage to the silk object.
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