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Cleaning Desert Patinas

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Pillar of the Community
United Kingdom
4176 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  11:15 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Ben to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
A nice uncleaned lot came in today. A small lot, only 20, but some great coins in there and 11 different emperors identifiable immediately. Some only needed a little bit of work.

A desert patina is highly desirable and frames the details of a coin well so retaining it is a good idea. A lot of cleaning methods negatively affect a sand patina or will remove the whole lot indiscriminately, so cleaning has to be manual. I thought I'd do a quick write up on how I clean desert coins, as the process is somewhat different to working on normal uncleaned coins where the aim is to remove all encrustations.

I took a wooden toothpick and dipped the very tip into a pot of distilled water. Working very carefully in small circles, I slowly worked down the desert patina over the covered letters. The toothpick blunts easily; I took a knife and occasionally renewed the sharp tip. As the dirt is worked away, the coin dries and so the tip is regularly remoistened, taking care not to flood the coin unnecessarily - I only want to wet the area I'm working on.

Encrustations on the bust are harder to remove satisfactorily. It can be easy to damage the surface or remove patina by mistake while cleaning, so I usually recommend not touching it all. However, for the Theodosius pictured below I decided to do a little work on the bust. Here, the work is much more delicate and deliberate, so I didn't use water (the muddy residue can hide what you are doing) and kept the toothpick constantly sharp. Here, I wanted the sand patina to remain in the details, but be removed from the high points. I no longer work in tight circles, but instead pull the pick against the direction of the raised lines of the detail, for example, by working perpendicular to the hair. This leaves the sand patina between the hairs intact. For this work, it is easily to be overzealous but the patina can not be put back. My endpoint goal is for the coin to still appear 'uncleaned'.

I worked away around the hair to reveal the full head, removed sand that covered the end of the eyebrow to properly frame the face, and exposed the tip of the nose to define the full portrait. I also carefully exposed the full width of the diadem ties.

Here are pictures to show this work on the Theodosius. The first picture is as it was received, then with the [DO] revealed, then after the bust work, then finally after I remembered that there is a second [S] in THEODOSIVS.

(last pictures in monochrome as I could get a better closeup that way).
Pillar of the Community
United States
4816 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  11:48 am  Show Profile   Check GrapeCollects's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GrapeCollects to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That's nuts! You're the most patient person I've heard of.
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Pillar of the Community
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1483 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  1:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice job Ben ! Looks really good!

I don't know about you but I find this type of work quite therapeutic and relaxing..especially when you get that kind of end result..Nicely done!

I always think with sand patinas its what you leave not what you take off and knowing when to stop..

Hows the reverse?...Paul
Bedrock of the Community
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United States
12478 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  2:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Well done Ben! it is nice that the details are no longer washed out.
"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
Edited by Spence
12/27/2018 2:51 pm
Pillar of the Community
United States
4333 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  3:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Pillar of the Community
United States
513 Posts
 Posted 12/27/2018  9:34 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add travelcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Well done, I have a few uncleaned that I am going to try the toothpick method.
Valued Member
142 Posts
 Posted 01/05/2019  8:00 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add MetzKaj to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I will make sure to try this when I receive my first lot of Roman coins from the desert. Fantastic work!
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