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General And Slightly Off Topic Talk Forum for exchanging ideas and talking about general issues without straying too far off topic.

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Old 01-05-2004, 05:12 PM   #101
Ed_Haynes
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I'd have to ask how safe the velvet, cardboard, and wood are for the medals? It may be pretty, but is it chemically safe?

Ed
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Old 01-05-2004, 05:51 PM   #102
Robert Pierce
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Ed,

Until reading this thread I had little concern about the environment in which we cased/displayed our medals, etc. Nothing like the comfort of ignorance. After reading into it, I can now understand the necessity. Years ago a fella told me that if you came across a piece, let's say, a 1939 Iron Cross (EK1 for those of us who collect such) that had been cleaned by the previous owner, and you wanted to reapply the patina to the silver of the cross, you simply put it in a bowl with a cracked hard-boiled egg and cover it, you would surely see the patina reform on the silver after a 'season'. Sounds like a strange recipe, but the point is, there is no doubt that some agent (chemical) in the egg produces rapid changes on the parent silver. Some of you may know what this agent is that does this; I haven't a clue. I heard from another person that humidity really speeds up this process on silver as well. Sooo, it sounds like there are quite a few other hazards to consider. And, as another member stated, there are neutralizers which can be added to the environment to slow down or hopefully stop this ageing process.
It seems there's more to consider than just the expense $$$ of our hobby. And all the while the original recipient didn't give one thought toward all of this. He was just happy to have survived it, and show that he had.

Respects.
Robert
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Old 01-05-2004, 06:56 PM   #103
j h beers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_Haynes
I'd have to ask how safe the velvet, cardboard, and wood are for the medals? It may be pretty, but is it chemically safe?

Ed
Unless you bought the fabric, the cardboard or the wood from a firm that supplies specially produced versions of these items to museums, all three are capable of damaging medals either through direct contact or through the emission of chemical vapors.

Be glad you are collecting soviet/russian medals that tend to be made of real silver or gold. Not so a lot of WW II German stuff: in addition to the dangers presented by the materials used to manufacture display mediums, most Third Riech awards have plating that is chemically reacting to the base metals they were made from.

At least, with some caution, soviet collectors will still have presentable collections in another ten or twenty years. Our friends who collect third reich stuff, however, will most likely have cases filled with excruciatingly expensive awards that have all the sex appeal of battery terminals..

jhb
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Old 01-05-2004, 06:59 PM   #104
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Real silver is among the most fragile of substances. Ask anyone who collects British medals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by j h beers

. . . .

Be glad you are collecting soviet/russian medals that tend to be made of real silver or gold. . . .

. . . .

jhb
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Old 01-05-2004, 07:11 PM   #105
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Originally Posted by Ed_Haynes
Real silver is among the most fragile of substances. Ask anyone who collects British medals.
I know what you mean: discovering that a silver British Crimean medal (with "Sebastopol" bar - what else?) had turned almost black because of the cheap plastic medal envelope that I had used to store it made me more aware of the chemical properties of a lot of things I once thought were "safe."

My basic idea was that awrds made of Russian silver - albeit with a modicum of proper care - will last much longer than Third Reich wards made of badly plated German "kreigsmetall, " i.e. a mixture of zinc and God knows what else...

jhb
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Old 01-05-2004, 08:19 PM   #106
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Interesting points, both of you. Thank you. I just recently purchased an early WWll German War Merit Cross 1st Class. An inexpensive piece, very common. I like the early Third Reich pieces, with some even being awarded pre-1939. The early pieces, as this cross (known as the KVK1), were constructed out of a brass or 'tombak' (I believe a mixture of brass and copper) base metal. This was plated with German silver, which was an ad-mixture of copper, brass and tin. There was no real silver in these pieces (to my knowledge) until you get up into the Knight's Cross category of this award. With all this said, let me get to the point. They were issued in a leatherette case which was lined with velvet and a velour material. The portion of the case that the cross set in (being the bottom of the case, of course) was glued into the case with a glue made from horses' hooves. People say the inner case has a discernable smell or odor all of it's own. This is a good sign to a Third Reich collector. After years of being in this case, the cross picks up bad tarnish. I mean some are really bad. Now it makes perfect sense why they tarnished so. In the later years of the war the same cross was made from a die-forged, and finally a die-casted zinc base metal. This was again plated during mid-war and then applied as a thinner 'wash' in the closing years of the war. But the final process in all of their constuction was a layer of varnish/lacquer to seal the piece for whatever purpose (probably preservation). I may be off a little in my understanding but, in general terms I'm close. Pieces that have survived the time in near-mint to mint condition have nearly no tarnish to speak of even though they too were stored in their original presentation cases. IMO, their varnish coating has protected them. Pieces that received normal to heavy wear lost their protection and hence tarnished. The case builders were probably unaware of the hazards involved with the construction materials they were using. Please understand, I am no expert when it comes to the construction or preservation of WWll German medals, etc.; these are just my own observations and what little I have learned reading on the subject. But I now can see there may be a connection between the badly oxidized surfaces of these medals and the cased they were stored in for so long.

Respects.
Robert
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Old 01-05-2004, 08:45 PM   #107
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Pierce
Interesting points, both of you. Thank you. I just recently purchased an early WWll German War Merit Cross 1st Class. An inexpensive piece, very common. I like the early Third Reich pieces, with some even being awarded pre-1939. The early pieces, as this cross (known as the KVK1), were constructed out of a brass or 'tombak' (I believe a mixture of brass and copper) base metal. This was plated with German silver, which was an ad-mixture of copper, brass and tin. There was no real silver in these pieces (to my knowledge) until you get up into the Knight's Cross category of this award. With all this said, let me get to the point. They were issued in a leatherette case which was lined with velvet and a velour material. The portion of the case that the cross set in (being the bottom of the case, of course) was glued into the case with a glue made from horses' hooves. People say the inner case has a discernable smell or odor all of it's own. This is a good sign to a Third Reich collector. After years of being in this case, the cross picks up bad tarnish. I mean some are really bad. Now it makes perfect sense why they tarnished so. In the later years of the war the same cross was made from a die-forged, and finally a die-casted zinc base metal. This was again plated during mid-war and then applied as a thinner 'wash' in the closing years of the war. But the final process in all of their constuction was a layer of varnish/lacquer to seal the piece for whatever purpose (probably preservation). I may be off a little in my understanding but, in general terms I'm close. Pieces that have survived the time in near-mint to mint condition have nearly no tarnish to speak of even though they too were stored in their original presentation cases. IMO, their varnish coating has protected them. Pieces that received normal to heavy wear lost their protection and hence tarnished. The case builders were probably unaware of the hazards involved with the construction materials they were using. Please understand, I am no expert when it comes to the construction or preservation of WWll German medals, etc.; these are just my own observations and what little I have learned reading on the subject. But I now can see there may be a connection between the badly oxidized surfaces of these medals and the cased they were stored in for so long.

Respects.
Robert
I think you are right about the lacquering process but it's time for a true-life confession on my part: because of some IIIrd reich war souvenirs that were given to me in childhood by well meaning WW II vet uncles, throughout my life I have periodically drifted in and out of what I have frequently thought of as the "dark side" of militaria collecting.

During one of the periods when I was "clean and sober," however, and could look at German stuff without reaching for my wallet in the same way that Frodo wanted to reach for The Ring in reel three, a buddy who was a chemist told me that the problem with early Third Reich badges made of plated tombac was that there was a chemical incompatibility between the tombac and the plating that would inevitably destroy the medal. Because I wasn't actively collecting German stuff at the time, I cannot now quote his chapter & verse on the process ... sorry.

As an example, even back in the seventies, I remember seeing blockade runner badges that were blistering from the inside and there wasn't anything that could be done to stop or reverse the process. i believe that many more WW II German badges are now showing the same problems today.

JHB
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Old 01-05-2004, 09:30 PM   #108
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Absolutely, JH.
I have seen many, many Third Reich collectibles with this 'bubbling' over the surface. And the 'zincers' are really full of inner corrosion, which surfaces when it worsens. It looks like it was dipped in sulphuric acid! I know that the mid-war pieces were brass or copper plated first to give the German silver something more compatible to adhere to. This is the reason I prefer the earlier pieces. I wasn't aware that the early tombak pieces had this problem. Your years of collecting has given you more exposure/experience. When I started collecting Soviet awards (I have that knee-jerk reaction really bad right now) I was AMAZED at the materials they were made from. Platinum, gold, silver, brass, enamel! It seems they weren't in short supply of any natural materials as the Germans became during the war.

Respects.
Robert
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Old 01-08-2004, 05:12 AM   #109
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Hi Robert,

I head about the egg trick quite some time ago, but had forgotten about it. The way it works is that an egg produces a sulphur compound, H2S, also known to the rest of us mere mortals as rotten egg smell (remember Chemistry 101? That's a classic).

Although not a chemistry specialist at all, I remember learning that sulphur is highly reactive with silver, and gives an irridescent, rainbow-like patina, usually quite attractive; IMHO, I can't understand why anyone would want to use that black, oily fake patina when it is so simple and fairly fast to "manufacture" real patina.

Silver is not the most reactive metal there is, on the contrary. From the top of my head, so please do not hold it against me if I make some minor mistake, from most reactive to least reactive metal most commonly used for coin and medal making, we have:
. tin
. aluminum
. iron
. copper
. silver
. platinum
. gold

A common practice in numismatics is to coat coins with a very thin layer of clear lacquer. As an example, all coins from King Farrouk's collection were so coated to protect them from the Egyptian ambiant humidity and the reactivity of the metal they were coined in.

I am sure that someone more knowledgeable than I can provide further details to benefit us all.

Marc


Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Pierce
Ed,

Until reading this thread I had little concern about the environment in which we cased/displayed our medals, etc. Nothing like the comfort of ignorance. After reading into it, I can now understand the necessity. Years ago a fella told me that if you came across a piece, let's say, a 1939 Iron Cross (EK1 for those of us who collect such) that had been cleaned by the previous owner, and you wanted to reapply the patina to the silver of the cross, you simply put it in a bowl with a cracked hard-boiled egg and cover it, you would surely see the patina reform on the silver after a 'season'. Sounds like a strange recipe, but the point is, there is no doubt that some agent (chemical) in the egg produces rapid changes on the parent silver. Some of you may know what this agent is that does this; I haven't a clue. I heard from another person that humidity really speeds up this process on silver as well. Sooo, it sounds like there are quite a few other hazards to consider. And, as another member stated, there are neutralizers which can be added to the environment to slow down or hopefully stop this ageing process.
It seems there's more to consider than just the expense $$$ of our hobby. And all the while the original recipient didn't give one thought toward all of this. He was just happy to have survived it, and show that he had.

Respects.
Robert
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Old 01-08-2004, 03:37 PM   #110
Robert Pierce
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Lapa,

I was wrong when I stated that German silver was a mixture of brass, copper and tin. I did some research (it just didn't ring a bell with me) and found that the main ingredient was nickel, not tin. There were two types of this German silver: neusilber and altsilber ( both nickel alloys). This is interesting that the egg (sulphur) would cause these effects on the German silver (and silver as a whole). I used to work (retired now) at a Chevron chemical plant. We used sulphuric acid in our production of 16-16-16 fertilizer prills. We had to, out of necessity, use carbon steel piping for the routing of this toxic acid. We tried experimenting with various stainless steel alloys for piping in hopes that the new piping would outlive the carbon steel ppg. We found that the nickel in the stainless steel alloy was very unstable, and of course the s.s. piping failed prematurely. We again experimented with other alloys including another s.s. alloy, carpenter 20. Again, a failure. So we went back to using the old carbon steel piping. Now, the c.s. piping lasted almost indefinately if it was kept filled with the acid. But after each run of acid the operating crew would air-blow the piping to evacuate the acid from the piping. On hot days condensation formed rapidly within the empty piping and mixed with the sulphuric residue left behind, creating a very, very toxic atmosphere. At the same time, the chemical reaction within the piping created hydrogen gases (very explosive). The point I am getting to is that humidity (in this case, condensation, hense oxygen) was the fatal ingredient. So I can understand why the egg combined with the moist atmosphere from the egg would be so toxic to the nickel of the German silver finish, thus oxidizing the finish.
So, I suppose the bast place to keep our awards, whether they are Soviet or German, is a low-humidity environment like the Sahara desert.
This high-tech stuff is blowing my mind. I think I'll just go back and enjoy them and forget all about my redundancy.

Robert
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