Pinchbeck

Pinchbeck was invented by Christopher Pinchbeck around 1720 and was guarded as a family secret for many years, although there were many copies. It is a type of brass made from copper and zinc to resemble gold.  It is lighter in weight than gold and stays unoxidized for a very long time.

Pinchbeck’s great benefit was that it brought a gold colored metal to ordinary people.  It was also good for those concerned about theft, particularly when riding on stagecoaches; the wealthy often liked to leave their real gold at home and bring along Pinchbeck replicas.

  A GEORGE II PINCHBECK-MOUNTED HARDSTONE CHÂTELAINE WITH NÉCESSAIRE   Christie’s Sale 7800

A GEORGE II PINCHBECK-MOUNTED HARDSTONE CHÂTELAINE WITH NÉCESSAIRE
Christie’s Sale 7800

Many pieces throughout the 18th and 19th century are made from Pinchbeck, particularly chatelaines but also a wide range of other jewelry and watches. Pinchbeck was eventually replaced by 9 carat gold in 1854 and electro-gilding in 1840.

Pinchbeck typically comprises copper and zinc in ratios between 89% Cu, 11% Zn; and 93% Cu, 7% Zn.

Today, Pinchbeck is considered quite rare and collectible. It has a distinctive look which you can learn to recognize once you have handled a few Pinchbeck pieces.

 Pinchbeck and enamel watch c. 1740  Sotheby’s No8848

Pinchbeck and enamel watch c. 1740

Sotheby’s No8848

A related metal is Bath Metal which is like Pinchbeck but has a higher zinc content (approx 45%)  It was developed also in the 18th century.  It has a white color. It was, however, not used frequently in jewelry.

In German, Pinchbeck is referred to as 'Tombak' and in French it is 'Tombac.'

Sources / Resources:

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Bath_metal

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Pinchbeck

 

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