The question of authenticity of an object in the sense that a stylistically or art historically derived date is in agreement with an independent (usually physical) dating method is sometimes hard to achieve, because for some materials there is no physical dating method (yet) available. Best known are radiocarbon for organic materials and thermoluminescence dating for ceramics, while e.g. copper alloys cannot be dated by a scientific method.
However, it is often possible to identify fakes meaning that an object can contain substances or was produced by methods that were not available in the purported period of origin. In such circumstances the identification of a fake is certain, while the reverse argument is not possible. The absence of any indication of a fake is no proof but only an indication of authenticity. We often use a combination of different scientific methods to substantiate such conclusions.
Depending on the material, the purported origin and age of the object, a specially taylored combination can be offered. Even though non-destructive analyses may be possible in some cases (e.g. enamel, coinages), in general a small sample is necessary for such scientific investigations.
For the investigation of the authenticity of metal objects we propose different sets of methods. In most cases the determination of the chemical composition is the first step, followed by patina analyses, study of production techniques (metallography), tool mark observations (SEM or digital microscopy) or the so called 210Pb test (for copper, bronze, and silver objects and alloys).
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