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Comparative XRF Study of 3 Pour le Merite Orders

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    #16
    Sandro, I appreciate your opinion, but I have done exactly as you asked in the previous thread. The forum members asked me to get the cross tested via XRF to see if it is hollow and to see what is in the enamel. The idea was that we did not have enough information to continue discussion. Well, I got more information and I did you one better by having the metals, the lettering, and the enamels tested on not one, but 3 contemporary crosses for comparative purposes. The hollowness issue was answered. The lettering issue was answered. The metal alloys are known. The enamel formulas are known. We have learned a great deal, and I believe the new evidence is conclusive.

    I have nothing against Georgian metalsmiths or jewelers, I am saying that the metals, enamels and lettering were engineered for specific purposes to meet government standards and individual needs by German and Austrian enamellers and smiths who were at that time perhaps the best n the world. The enamel was engineered for workability, clarity, durability, color, and other factors according to what was being constructed, as were the metals. If a Godet PLM was tested, I am entirely sure that the enamel would have a different signature than a Wagner, but if a Wagner has the same signature as a JHW, you can be assured that they worked together or that the same firm finished both crosses, which dates the cross in question. I stated that Friedlaendermost likely did not loan out its dies to Georgian jewelers (with no offense to Georgian jewelers). I am sure that Wagner did not loan out its enamel to those jewelers either.

    If you do not believe the enamel- go to the metal. The key here is that the gold AND the Friedlaender dies had to be together at the same time to form those eagles. That could have only happened pre-November 1916 unless someone found the dies post war and sent them to Georgia with stolen Wagner or JHW enamel. I imagine that, in order to stay a jeweler to the crown in good standing, Friedlaender had to follow the 1916 rules. Therefore, the cross using 20K gold had to be made before the rules changed, hollow or not.

    If you do not believe the enamel or the metal alloys - believe the crown and lettering. 24K gold - against the rules and very hard to obtain after 1916. The enamel is pillowed perfectly and the lettering and crown follow the curve of the pillowing exactly, hand cut, I don't know how because they did not have laser tools at that time. Each gold letter is incredibly thin, hand cut out and perfectly laid into the enamel. Who has the ability to do that? I would trust the German enamellers and goldsmiths- no offense to the Georgian jewelers. The evidence is amazing even though the cross does not have "Made before November 1916" engraved on it, that is what it is telling us.

    Sandro, you are most welcome back any time. I need to add that this data came from someone who has tested hundreds of glasses and enamels, metals in precious art works, paints, plasters, rock and other materials for authenticity by what elements are present. There is no doubt about any of the numbers presented or the fact that his explanations of why certain elements are used in the alloys or the enamels comes from vast understanding and experience. He is one of the world's authorities, and the data is beyond reproach.

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      #17
      Don: Thank you much for those comments. I also have experience with this process. I worked in a lab for a sugar company where the amounts of sodium, potassium, and lithium were found in liquid samples by injecting them into a flame and reading the characteristic color or spectrum for each element. It is the same process as XRF, but the source of added energy is the flame instead of an x-ray. Thousands of dollars in payouts depended on our results, and they were very reliable.

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        #18
        It was a fact that the procurement of higher grades of gold post 1916 continued well into the postwar period.

        Comment


          #19
          Hi David!
          This is what science is all about! I like the approach and believe that, doing this "composition"-research, some mysteries of makers and timeframes could be solved.
          @ Sandro : (With all necessary respect) Statements like "Gold is gold, and enamel is enamel" are obsolete after the introduction of XRF and other analytic methods, that unveil the very tiny differences in composition of materials, thus serving as "fingerprints" for the specific origin and age of a given lot of matter. (Back to the bronce age, by the way)
          It´s not the answer to all questions (which is 42 - as we all know), but it helps a lot in understanding the ways of former jewellers craftmanship.
          I´m always thinking of doing a similar research on imperial flight badges, but right know I do not have the time - and the money ...
          Well done , David!
          Regards
          Hagrid

          Comment


            #20
            Thanks. Vince. You are probably right that there were some windows of opportunity for obtaining gold, especially between the abdication of the Kaiser when the rules went away up until the time in 1919 when the treaty of Versailles went into effect in late 1919. The treaty demanded that war reparations all be made in gold. Look what happened to many of the makers of this time: they merged to avoid their businesses failing, but they failed anyway. Many makers did not have the means or connections to obtain gold, even if it were available. JHW and 4 other firms merged with Godet to survive, then that company failed in 1929. Godet reorganized in time for the Third Reich, but was a shadow of its former self. Very large companies like C.E Juncker survived, but many just barely. This does not change the fact that they were not allowed to use gold until November, 1918, and that the eagles on the JHW cross have been matched to the eagles on a circa 1900 cross. Were the Friedlaender dies available for use by someone post- 1918 who had the means to obtain gold? Perhaps, but doubtful. They would also have had to obtain Wagner's or JHW's enamel.

            Thank you Hagrid, I really appreciate it.! I have some flight badges also that it would be good to do metallurgy on. Observer badges would even have enamel to look at. I'll bet it would have a different formula than Wagner and JHW.

            Comment


              #21
              First off, congratulations David on pulling together the Herculean tasks of assembling these crosses and getting them to Dr. B for analysis!! I have some personal experience with those challenges and much appreciation for what was done. If you can post the spectrum for the Wagner--better yet all three--I'd love to see them. (Understood may need to redact labeling which may reveal Dr. B's identity.)

              I can offer you some observations which may shed light on some of the apparent mysteries. 1) Hollow enameled badges were never entirely hollow, in the sense each face needed to be coated with an enamel layer on both sides
              to prevent warpage under heating, as the metal expansion would behave differently on the frit side than the bare side. Thus there would be a point in which molten glass effectively wanted to exit the weep hole and might well fill it entirely. That wouldn't be dangerous in the molten state as gasses could still exit through and by the time it cooled to a more solid state the escape of trapped gasses would no longer be an issue. Only way to determine "how hollow" it is is thus ultrasound or cross-sectional x-ray analysis. Glass is close in density and weight to silver alloys, though it would be lighter than gold.

              2) If you really want to understand the lettering on the converted cross, you must obtain electron-microscopy. I suspect you will find it was not etched into the surface, but rather applied as individual letters or perhaps just small sheets, and "masked" with letter templates, after which another layer of blue enamel was applied to obtain a slight overlap of the gold layer--impossible to achieve if you etched into the surface alone, but plainly visible in the EMs (electron micrographs) I posted in the "Much That Once Was..." thread. The masking can then be removed (or might even have burned away during the enameling?) and leave the finished letter outlines.

              3) XRF is great technology, but it is easily confounded by layered metals, since it measures what are in effect thin volumes and not pure strata per se. A sterling silver body--content ~938 silver--which was gilded at some point will show residual presence of gold which one might take for being part of the alloy when it is nothing of the kind, rather having been applied to the surface. While in theory that might reveal to XRF as a "plated surface," in my experience the loss of gold over years does not give one any such layer, but rather a kind of "watercolor" impact which measures exactly along the lines you cite for the Wagner. The silver surface was "pickled" to prep it for enameling and plating, too, in period work and the "pickling" effectively left a very thin, but corrosion resistant, layer of pure silver atop the sterling base--hence your .999 fine measure on the Rothe letters. Perhaps evidence of period technique, yet from a metals analysis standpoint a confounding variable. If period, the gilding should be "fire gilding" and show traces of mercury, incidentally (thanks eternally to Les for so much education there).

              4) The enamel "recipes" were very likely trade-secrets, from what I have cobbled together, and if the XRF fingerprints are as close as described, that is mighty compelling. The mix may have been done by "pinch measure" for all we know, though, so cobalt one way or another by a small percent may not mean a great deal as long as the overall ratios were quite close. Arsenic is a common contaminant of mined cobalt ores, incidentally, and thus may be present not so much for its useful glass chemistry (though that sure doesn't hurt) but for the sourcing of the cobalt. That said, perhaps evidence for the same cobalt source?

              I like the originality of the JO "skeleton"--to me that is unquestionable, but have to join Sandro in at least a "Devil's Advocate" way to say making use of a period pre-1916 JO proves nothing for when the conversion took place, and though the Kaiser's order would prohibit making an official award with gold, it wouldn't have had any effect on a private purchase piece being commissioned as long as the purchaser supplied the gold. So even granting period craftsmanship and enamel composition, you could still be anywhere up to 1930 easily...

              This should be fun!

              Cheers,

              Jim
              Last edited by Zepenthusiast; 11-18-2020, 01:50 AM.

              Comment


                #22
                I don't think anyone is implying that this is a officially awarded piece. More than likely it would have been a wearer's copy. That doesn't make it any less interesting. Somewhere out there is a pic of this hanging from the neck of an awardee.
                pseudo-expert

                Comment


                  #23
                  Thanks much Jim, (I think) for all of this new information! Just when I think we might have it all figured out, you point out that it may not quite be that simple. I can appreciate that, but it reminds me that there is still a lot to learn. First, I don't have access to the spectra, only the graphic equivalents and the numbers associated with the peaks on those graphs. Dr. B. may have the spectra. I believe that he would be interested in your comments here, and I will forward them to him or send him a link to this forum.

                  1.) I remember you making the point about the hollowness and the weep hole in the previous thread. The cross appeared not to be hollow in the XRF testing, but it could be because it is packed with enamel as you point out. Further testing seems to be indicated and although I sided with Dr. B's conclusion of non-hollowness, there have always been factors pointing both ways. A tiny weep hole and well finished edges with an engraved signature all point to hollow or semi hollow, while initial testing says that it is not.

                  2.) This is a better explanation of how the lettering was achieved, but etching the glass also makes sense. Dr. B. and I actually discussed the possibility of this type of process when we were trying to decide how the lettering was done. I can see how this may be simpler, except for the melting points between the glass and the gold- the glass could not be overheated. This has to be a relatively rare process which required a lot of skill. Do you know who was known for using this technique and the time period?

                  3.) Dr. B. explained that he used a lower energy scan that works on different electron orbitals than a high energy scan to determine plating and that there was none. Do you know if this process (pickling) was used on Wagner crosses and that is what we are looking at on the one tested? About the Rothe: I believe that you meant to say that the "pickling effectively left a very thin, but corrosion resistant, layer of pure gold (instead you stated silver) atop the sterling base"- This may indeed be what we are looking at with the base part of the Rothe cross. Mercury was not tested for, so we do not know.

                  4.) Dr. B. pointed out to me that the enamels were the same the first time that we discussed the raw data. It was very striking. The amount of arsenic used in his opinion was definitely added as a toughener, even though there may have been some present in the cobalt also. The amount used was beyond what would show up as a trace in the cobalt. We know this because such a minute amount of cobalt was used, only 2.2 percent of total metals measured in the JHW cross and 1.5 percent of the total metals in the Wagner. As important as the cobalt is to the shade of blue, I would imagine that it would be measured very carefully and not pinch measured.

                  Let me play devil's advocate with your devil's advocacy for a minute. Okay- let us not disregard the J.H.W. maker's mark here, a critical part of the skeleton. Let's hypothetically say that someone brings a 1900 vintage JO Ehrenritter cross to J.H. Werner's shop at the Adlon Hotel and arranges to have a conversion made. It has to be done within the time period that the proper enamel is available that was also used on the Wagner crosses.(1918?) If a previously finished cross is used, it would have to have its enamel changed from white to blue, including inside the tiny weep hole where it is unreachable. It would have to be done during the time that JH Werner was in business (I believe until 1924 when the merger with Godet took place.), and it would have to involve workers with enough skill to achieve the lettering and modification of the eagles. JHW brings all of these conditions together, but I seriously doubt if someone did a conversion later that they would take the trouble to sign a Friedlaender conversion cross with J.H.W. If the conversion were done at any time it would be OK if the cross were furnished by the customer, but it would be much easier to use an unfinished cross furnished by or purchased from Friedlaender because of your working relationship. As a firm, you would not sign your initials to any piece of work that broke any rules. I think out to 1930 is stretching it too far by about 11 years.
                  Last edited by David Christian; 11-18-2020, 12:41 AM.

                  Comment


                    #24
                    Don: I am still searching for that picture. Please let me know if anyone runs across anything that remotely looks like this cross in wear! This may have been a custom piece for someone who was already a knight of the JO. Thanks for the comment.

                    Comment


                      #25
                      The mystery deepens. Keep in mind that the patriotic 'Gold gab ich fuer Eisen' campaign was a huge success for the German treasury during the conflict, and drained private individuals of their personal gold supplies.

                      Comment


                        #26
                        Hi Vince: I have collected one of the iron tokens that was given out during that campaign to donors. Good point. To clarify what I said above after doing a little more thinking, if Jim's theory is correct about the enamel and the semi hollow cross, and even if it is not, the fact that the enamel in the tiny hole is blue would mean that the cross was not made from a converted finished JO cross (with existing white enamel), but an unfinished cross with no enamel, as the enamel inside, or in the hole, is clearly blue. This takes us back to a time when an unfinished gold award would have been available from Friedlaender. without enamel, because a private person would not have owned an unfinished cross. Even if gold was brought in to Friedlaender to be made into a JO cross, it would have had to be done when the dies and blue enamel were still available, then handed given to JHW for finishing.

                        Comment


                          #27
                          Sometimes on this forum folks say that no true “analysis” or “conclusion” can be reached without a “hands on” look. Others, at times, point to minor nuances and say that the piece under consideration “lacks certain details of an original” example.

                          Being an outsider to the subject of PLMs, beyond admiring the examples of some I’ve seen, my outsider’s view of Dave’s cross starts with the acknowledged recognition that very few of the discussed “conversions” (from the Johanniter Order to the PLM) have ever been documented BUT some have been known to exist. Clearly such conversions exist, yes? At times on our forum there seems an inordinate tendency not to want to allow for variance even though a boatload of examples of one-off or enhanced personal copies are seen to exist throughout this hobby from medals/awards to insignia. (An example, if I may, might be the Gallipoli Star where many wearers had far higher quality pieces made/purchased at their own expense than the poorer quality painted, issue pieces.) Another custom indulgence (not just in Germany) includes firearms customized ‘to personal taste’ as shown below with Walther examples of one of Göring’s pistols & one of Elvis Presley’s. That said, the tendency to discount that which is different is almost a country club mindset of keeping the riff-raff out.

                          For those inclined toward requiring that “the proof is in the details” in accepting a piece as authentic and period, I reflect on the undeniable, scientific XRF testing showing the composition of the enamel matching the subject cross with the Wagner PLM (circa 1916). While I accept I’m a noob when it comes to these awards, what am I missing? Whether someone broke the Kaiser’s edicts relating to gold use seems not the least bit poignant. To the outsider, it seems the enamel that’s the salient feature.

                          In spite of this evidence there’s still seemingly adamant reluctance to accept the subject piece as a period piece… and I just can't see why
                          Attached Files

                          Comment


                            #28
                            To some, if it is not an "issue" piece it is not real. I understand the reluctance to accept a variance. These are $20k+ items and the potential to open the floodgates to fakes is enormous. But the devil is in the details and fakers will never be able to replicate the enamel composition.
                            pseudo-expert

                            Comment


                              #29
                              Originally posted by Rick C View Post
                              Sometimes on this forum folks say that no true “analysis” or “conclusion” can be reached without a “hands on” look. Others, at times, point to minor nuances and say that the piece under consideration “lacks certain details of an original” example.

                              Being an outsider to the subject of PLMs, beyond admiring the examples of some I’ve seen, my outsider’s view of Dave’s cross starts with the acknowledged recognition that very few of the discussed “conversions” (from the Johanniter Order to the PLM) have ever been documented BUT some have been known to exist. Clearly such conversions exist, yes? At times on our forum there seems an inordinate tendency not to want to allow for variance even though a boatload of examples of one-off or enhanced personal copies are seen to exist throughout this hobby from medals/awards to insignia. (An example, if I may, might be the Gallipoli Star where many wearers had far higher quality pieces made/purchased at their own expense than the poorer quality painted, issue pieces.) Another custom indulgence (not just in Germany) includes firearms customized ‘to personal taste’ as shown below with Walther examples of one of Göring’s pistols & one of Elvis Presley’s. That said, the tendency to discount that which is different is almost a country club mindset of keeping the riff-raff out.

                              For those inclined toward requiring that “the proof is in the details” in accepting a piece as authentic and period, I reflect on the undeniable, scientific XRF testing showing the composition of the enamel matching the subject cross with the Wagner PLM (circa 1916). While I accept I’m a noob when it comes to these awards, what am I missing? Whether someone broke the Kaiser’s edicts relating to gold use seems not the least bit poignant. To the outsider, it seems the enamel that’s the salient feature.

                              In spite of this evidence there’s still seemingly adamant reluctance to accept the subject piece as a period piece… and I just can't see why
                              I dunno, perhaps the reluctance stems from the fact that if this cross somehow passed through the workshops of Friedländer or Wagner (as seems the assumption now), who in 1916 were both actual makers of the PLM, one might expect that the buyer would purchase one of their PLM's instead? Or from the fact that the cross came from Georgia, which has a tradition of making gold works with enamel inlays (personally, I found the pics I post below taken from the links I posted quite interesting)? Or from the fact that the lettering is so painfully crude (check our the "r" in "Merite" for example)? Or from the unexplained and inexplicable weep-hole? Oh and please, if you do have pics of a documented contemporary converted Johannitter, please share them, so we may compare.

                              I for one am fully prepared to accept properly documented variations, but as I said, the tests prove nothing in terms of originality and timelines. And if a recipient in 1916 needed and could (apparently) afford a gold cross, why not acquire it from Godet, Wagner or Friedländer, rather than ask them (or JHW) to convert a "Rohling" Johannitter, as I understand the latest thesis is (remember: the original assumption that this debate started on was that the thread-starter was made on order of a foreign recipient. Now, it is apparently made pre 1916, when gold PLM's were in fact being produced by the named manufacturers? Whatever fits, whatever fits .....).

                              Kind regards,
                              Sandro
                              Attached Files
                              Last edited by GdC26; 11-21-2020, 03:31 AM.
                              Looking for personal items of German, Austrian and Italian commanders of the WW I Isonzo and Trentino fronts. Also looking for the Ehrenpokal and other items belonging to Hauptmann Werner Lucas, JG 3.

                              Comment


                                #30
                                Sandro my friend: The works of the Georgian smiths in glass, enamel, and metal that you have put up here is amazing, painstaking and wonderful. I am gaining a new respect for their abilities. I have traveled to eastern Turkey and brought back copper plates hand engraved and inlaid with other metals and a vey nice opal ring. I realize that the craftsmen of that area are highly skilled in their metal work and artistry and it is part of their culture as it is throughout that entire region, and it has been for centuries. That being said, I believe that we need to make a distinction and leave Georgia behind.

                                Georgia is very important to the history of this piece because it may have lived there for more than 75 years. It is not, however, important to the origin of this piece. The Georgian craftsmen probably would have had the ability to produce the PLM in question if they had the specific Friedlaender dies to make the base cross, the correct enamel that was used in standard Wagner crosses, and the gold alloys to make what we see. All of these items put a timeframe on this PLM, as does the very important but most often disregarded J.H.W. signature. Is it not important to ask when would this have been signed, and why would this have been signed in this way? A fake would best be marked by Friedlaender, (FR) because if you started with their cross, you would expect it to have their mark and their enamel, which it does not. (There is the possibility that Wagner and Friedlaender enamel is the same, but that is another test.)

                                I must apologize to you Sandro, because I was not understanding what you are correct in saying, which is what Jim is referring to. That is, the conversion of this cross from JO to PLM could have happened at any time, which possibly includes even coming together in a workshop in Georgia. That was a true statement before we knew the gold, die, and enamel fingerprints. I am saying with this new XRF evidence, as stated above, the enamel and the Friedlaender eagles make it at the very least a contemporary with the Wagner retail piece, and perhaps even pre-war as the matching Friedlaender JO eagles are circa 1900.

                                The weep hole and the hollowness issue are very important because they take us back to pre-November 1916 construction methods. The weep hole is not inexplicable. If what Jim says is true in the previous post, the cross may still turn out to be hollow or semi hollow, but the XRF testing done for this thread is not of the correct type to determine that. There has always been evidence that points both ways. The fact that the enamel that is in what is thought to be the weep hole is blue instead of white confirms that if what Jim has stated is true about the finishing, the naked blank cross was first finished with blue enamel, indicating that it was not made from a previously finished JO(where the enamel in the weep hole would be white and not removable), but made from a new blank cross. We are losing sight of the fact that this was a custom piece and perhaps a conglomeration that only JHW could put together because of their relationship with Wagner and Frielaender.

                                You have stated that I have changed my hypothesis to whatever fits. You are very correct in that is exactly what I have been doing, based on the evidence at hand, and not on the conclusion that I want and working backwards. It makes sense to change your hypothesis when you get new information dispelling your old hypothosis. My original hypothesis about how the PLM may have gotten to Georgia was just a theory, not set in stone. A million other plausible theories could be put forward, but the facts do NOT point to it originating there. Its travels may have begun during WWI or 25 years later. A Soviet soldier or official, for example, could have stumbled upon it in the ruins of Berlin and taken it home in 1945. Heck, Joe Stalin himself was a Georgian. It may have been damaged in an air raid or in the battle for Berlin or traded to soldiers for food. If only it could talk.

                                In addressing your point about this piece and whose shops it may have come through, we know most certainly that it came through Friedlaender and J.H. Werner. This is because of the evidence of the base cross and the maker's mark, which is not inconsequential. The Wagner connection only exists because it has the same enamel as a Wagner cross.

                                You are asking me to tell you the motivation of the person who requested or made this conversion when a Wagner, Friedlaender, Godet, or Rothe and Neffe cross for a second piece may have been available. You know that this is beyond the ability of anyone at this point in time unless we find a picture or document referring to it. The fact is, regardless of the circumstances, this piece was constructed and it does exist. It is a custom piece that does not resemble any of the other pieces of the day, and that may have been its selling point. It may have been a window display piece. It may have been requested by someone who was already a knight of the JO and became a knight of the PLM. We know that these conversions existed from JO Rechtritter crosses previously with similar lettering, but this is the first specimen found from an Ehrenritter cross, which is larger with different larger eagles. I will provide photos in another post in this thread of converted Rechtritter Johanniter Orden crosses. For all we know, this cross may have been requested by the Kaiser himself as Lord Protector of the Johanniter Order to wear only one time with his naval uniform. Since 1740, the design of the PLM has always been based on that of the JO. Your argument for the motivation of converting this PLM was so that someone could enhance the value of his existing JO Ehrenritter, whether it be in Germany or Georgia, 1930 or 1960. The XRF evidence shows that thesis to be untrue, yet you keep coming back to it and have not modified it.

                                Your concerns with the lettering are well founded. I agree that the r in Merite does not match the r in Pour. They do not have the crispness or complexity of those coming out of a well-prepared die. That being said, when I found out that they were all hand cut and shaped out of incredibly thin gold leaf then attached and embedded in the glass, I did not look at them in the same way. That operation would be incredibly difficult regardless of the technique used to achieve it. Jim describes it in his post. Look at the crown, which follows the enamel contours as described in posts #1 and #2 and tell me how that may have been done with glass at the same level. They are not painted on, they are embedded gold leaf, and in my opinion, they are works of art. Please re-examine my lettering explanation and conclusions and Jim's post on how it may have been done.

                                At the end of your comments you talk about properly documented variations. That is what I am trying to do here: get proper documentation through testing, discussion, and evidence. Variation infers a standard. This is a custom and not a standard piece. It varies much from the known examples of the day because it is one of a kind as far as we know at this point in time. I apologize for going on for so long about issues that have already been covered. I am preparing my next post with some pictures that you must see.

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