Costume and jewelry often bring together different kinds of materials: glass beads on fibrous string for example, or coins on cloth. Often, these different materials create a wonderful visual effect, but represent a difficulty in the long run for conservation. The long-term treatment of these different materials do not always go well together, and the storage or preservation of these objects sometimes seems an impossible undertaking.
For instance, the metal of coins may corrode the surface of a textile and the sharp edges of glass beads may cut through fibrous thread. Sometimes, repairs or conservation is inevitable with this combination of materials. For me however, it is exactly this combination that makes the value of an object: I especially like the crowded surface of a textile decorated with amulets. Imagine the surprising effects it will bring when a small silver cap is lifted off a textile tassel amulet and underneath the cap, almost hidden, there is a piece of intricate beadwork attached!
When handling these object, the most fragile material should be leading in conservation measures. So, most of the time, it will be the less endurable materials that dictate the rules for conservation. A few general rules do apply: cloth and beadwork should not be folded; it is better to keep it as flat as possible or rolled around a core. Cloth is best preserved at minus 40°C at a steady temperature. Avoid moisture, daylight and use acid free paper for storage of textile and fiber. Keep moths and insects away and air textiles occasionally. Use cloth gloves, especially when handling antique textiles or other less durable materials. With silver or other metals: avoid friction of the objects against each other. For more tips on beadwork, please check: www.ancientbeadwork.com
On the left I have added some pictures taken in Jordan and Egypt of bad, but illustrative, examples of storage.