Touchneedles

1682 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Silver, Room 66, The Whiteley Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Touch needles are used to test the purity of gold or silver with the help of a touchstone. This is a tablet made of a fine grained, smooth dark stone upon which needles tipped with specific alloys of silver or gold are rubbed. This leaves a coloured streak upon the surface which can be compared to that produced by the object which is being tested to determine the purity of the metal. Touch needles were part of a goldsmith's inventory. In 1532, the London goldsmith Robert Amadas was reported to have a set of 15 copper needles tipped with gold, a bunch of silver needles and a touchstone.

This set of needles is signed by P. Salydo, the maker, in 1682. Each needle is numbered to indicate the alloy with which it is tipped.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Copper needles tipped with gold, cut, chased and engraved silver.
Brief Description
Set of touchneedles, copper tipped with gold. Spain, 1682.
Physical Description
Copper touch needles tipped with gold of varying alloys, hanging in five groups of twelve from cast copper beaded S-scroll brackets. The groups of needles hang from a silver openwork hemisphere with a cut, chased and engraved floral design. The needles are 'damascened' with their numbers in silver.
Dimensions
  • Height: 13.2cm
  • Diameter: 3.4cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Po. SALYDO. F. EN 1682. ('Damascened' in silver onto one of the needles. )
Credit line
Given by Mrs E.S. Redshaw
Summary
Touch needles are used to test the purity of gold or silver with the help of a touchstone. This is a tablet made of a fine grained, smooth dark stone upon which needles tipped with specific alloys of silver or gold are rubbed. This leaves a coloured streak upon the surface which can be compared to that produced by the object which is being tested to determine the purity of the metal. Touch needles were part of a goldsmith's inventory. In 1532, the London goldsmith Robert Amadas was reported to have a set of 15 copper needles tipped with gold, a bunch of silver needles and a touchstone.



This set of needles is signed by P. Salydo, the maker, in 1682. Each needle is numbered to indicate the alloy with which it is tipped.
Collection
Accession Number
M.49-1971

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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