Anglo-Saxon helmet cheek piece from the Staffordshire Hoard
BBC News England reports that –
Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths knew how to treat gold to make it appear more golden, fresh research has revealed. Analysis of the Staffordshire Hoard showed goldsmiths knew how to remove alloyed metals such as copper and silver from the surface of objects. The finding exposes the flaws in archaeological methods used to calculate an object’s gold content by analysing its surface, experts said. It comes as a new display of the items opened in Birmingham. “Relatively little is known about Anglo-Saxon goldsmithing, but achieving this surface treatment would have been a skilled task, one we now know they were familiar with,” a museum spokesman said.
About 200 objects were scanned using X-ray technology to determine their elemental composition during the British Museum study. Gold was highly valued in Anglo Saxon society and may also have been believed to have magical or sacred qualities. It is not known how the inferior metals were removed.
Full BBC article and video here. See also the article by Maev Kennedy in the Guardian here.