Developing a methodology for the non-destructive analysis of British soft-paste porcelain

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2016

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Soft-paste porcelain was produced in Britain in great quantities between the mid-18th and early 19th centuries. Due to industrial secrecy and the complexities of creating a product that would survive high-temperature firing, a range of paste recipes was employed by dozens of factories. This has resulted in an array of porcelains which vary in their elemental composition and mineralogy. This research carries out a meta-analysis of the published data for porcelain bodies and glazes and concludes that some discrimination can be achieved using the major and minor elemental composition of the bodies, and that for the glazes intra-factory variation is often greater than inter-factory variation in composition. A pilot investigation of the trace elemental composition of British porcelain is carried out using Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy, which finds compositional groups corresponding to different sources of clay and silica raw materials. In the interests of preserving intact objects, there is recognised a need for a non-destructive method for analysing British porcelain, in order to provenance and date objects. Such a method would rely on data from the surface of the object, which is typically covered by glaze and over-glaze coloured enamels, and this research demonstrates that the formulae used for the glaze and enamels are in some cases characteristic of the factory, or workshop, and period at which they were created. Hand-Held XRF analysis is used to analyse the glaze, underglaze blue and polychrome enamels on a selection of porcelain objects from different factories, and compositional traits are identified that allow some factories and periods to be distinguished. Glass standards are developed, which are representative of the glaze and enamel composition, and which could allow X-ray fluorescence (XRF) data to be calibrated for fully quantitative results.

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Github

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X-ray fluorescence (XRF), Porcelain, Ceramics

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© Cranfield University, 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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