Metal leaf (gold, silver or their alloys) glass tesserae began to be used in wall mosaics in the st century AD (the first examples are in Rome) and their use has been uninterrupted up to day. The metal leaf could be obtained from circulating coins, jewellery or refining. According to various techniques that have changed over the centuries, the leaf was hot fixed between two glass layers. From an archaeological point of view, it is interesting to know when and where these tesserae were made, if they were new made or if they were reused tesserae recovered from earlier dismantled mosaics. The determination of the glass composition of the tesserae is not of great help in this connection, for the same kind of glass was used over long periods. Available information is still scanter for glasses produced between the 1st to 8th centuries when the batch of raw materials (a natural soda called natron and a silica-lime sand) was melted in large tank furnaces and chunks of raw glass were transported all over the Mediterranean to be remelted and shaped into manufacts in small pot furnaces. The SEM-EDS analysis is proposed in this study as a useful tool to investigate the composition of both the glass and the gold alloy in leaf tesserae from mosaics of the 1st - 9th centuries. The comparison of the composition of the gold leaf of the tesserae with that of circulating gold coins (for which an important analytical data base is available), adds further information to the glass analysis, allowing us to improve the dating of the tesserae and increase the knowledge that may result from scientific analyses. The results demonstrate that good quantitative analyses of the metal leaf can be performed and that metal leaves made of pure gold or gold-silver alloys were used.
|Number of pages||28|
|Journal||Materials Science and Engineering|
|Publication status||Published - 2012|
- glass mosaic tesserae