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Arsenic reaction for decoration of nickel objects

March 13, 2012

Q. Hi, I'm a conservator. My colleague asked me why in some practice they use an arsenic solution to highlight the nickel decoration in some object. I try to find the answer but couldn't get the satisfying answer. Could anyone help me please?

Mukhtaruddin Musa
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I know that Arsenic can be used as a grain refiner without sacrificing purity in gold plating solutions, I haven't heard of Arsenic being used For Ni plate however. This of course doesn't mean it's never been used. For decorative Ni plating applications saccharin is frequently used for brightening the deposit. It's a lot safer to have on hand!

Mark Baker
Engineering - Mesa, Arizona, USA
March 25, 2012

March 27, 2012

If I understand the question correctly, it is not concerned with the grain refining of the nickel.
An immersion coating of arsenic used to be a commonly used process for producing a popular steel grey finish known as 'imitation antique'. Applied all over and then relieved by scratch brushing, it would be very effective in highlighting raised features on a nickel finish. It is unlikely that you would find this on modern objects but quite likely on pieces that would interest a conservator.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

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