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Ceramic objects

This ceramic bowl has been repaired using patches. Accession number 54.171.617 This Chinese brown stoneware teacup is an example of an object with gilt repair. Accession number 38.117.55 This steep-sided bowl stands on a foot and is painted in famille rose. It it cracked and has been repaired using staples. Accession number 1966.125.2 This stoneware teapot with a pewter spout was made in England. Accession number M1036 These teabowls and saucers were made in China. Accession number 1973.126.101A+B

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Objects as different as teapots, flower vases, high voltage insulators, space shuttle insulating tiles, electronics components and some artificial bones are made from ceramics - materials and objects made from non-metallic minerals fired to more than 1000˚C. From rough earthenware to fine bone china, ceramics have had an enormous impact on human development over the ages.  

When damaged, some ceramics items tend to be discarded, but others are not. Some items are kept because they are still considered to be of practical or monetary value, or both. Some have carried religious significance to different cultures. There has often been a desire to be able to keep using them.

Missing or broken sections might often be replaced. In the past shellac, plaster, clay and even sections of other items were used. Waxes, shellac, natural gums including garlic, mulberry and tree sap have been used; as well as gelatine and isinglass, egg whites, glutinous rice and even boiled Gloucester cheese with quicklime!

Lacquer was often used and then covered with gold powder, making no attempt to hide the repair. Wire, rivets or dowels have also been used to hold broken pieces together but they can corrode, stain or damage the ceramic.

Modern adhesives for ceramics include epoxy resins, polyesters, acrylics, cyanoacrylics and UV hardening resins. They are chosen to suite the material, while their light transmitting properties are assessed to make joins as invisible as possible. Damages are recorded so that the history of the piece is known before the losses are integrated and disguised by painting or airbrushing.

Did you know?

The first recorded ceramic repair dates from around 7,000 BC.