Silver mirroring on silver gelatin glass negatives

a PhD research by Giovanna Di Pietro (dipietro AT arch.ethz.ch) June 2002

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Silver mirroring is a bluish metallic sheen appearing on the surface of silver based photographs as result of ageing. One of the photographic processes most affected by silver mirroring is that of silver gelatin glass negatives, the most common photographic negative process between the 1880s and the 1920s.
Silver mirroring can appear in a variaty of patterns which can be grouped in two categories: edge patterns and inner patterns. Edge patterns, the most usual silver mirroring patterns, include all the cases in which the mirroring stain is distributed at the four edges of the plate. Inner patterns include all the cases  as spots, lines, irregular shapes of the silver mirroring stains  located  at the centre of the negative. As patterns do not arise by coincidence but they are the risult of simple physical processes, the investigation of silver mirroring patterns gives information on the process of silver mirroring formation and on the conditions under which the degradation has taken place. The knowledge of these processes is the basis to decide rationally on the conditions and on the materials best suited to prevent or mitigate silver mirroring degradation.
In this work both the local and the pattern formation of silver mirroring are investigated. As far as the local formation of silver mirroring, this work presents new experimental results which allows to propose some improvements to the established physical-chemical model of local silver mirroring formation (the so-called oxidation-migration-re-aggregation model or Henridks' model)  (Chapter 3). As far as the formation of silver mirroring patterns, a  model of diffusion and reaction of gases with the emulsion which explain the formation of edge patterns, both on historical plates and on freshly processed plates exposed to a polluting environment, was  developed and tested with experiments (Chapter 4).  Among the inner patterns, the particular case of stains with shape resembling the creases of  the glassine envelopes in which the plates were stored in analysed and the creasing of glassine papers when exposed to humidity is investigated (Chapter 5).
Moreover, this work presents a large number of examples of silver mirroring patterns on silver gelatin glass plates and a literature review of the models dealing with the formation of silver mirroring.

Download the dissertation (11.1 Mb).

The dissertation is in Adobe PDF format. In order to read it you must install Adobe Reader

Gallery of silver mirroring patterns.

Here are collected about 50 images (in low and high resolution) of silver mirroring on silver gelatin glass negatives.These patterns are described in Chapter 1 of the dissertation. Contribute (dipietro AT arch.ethz.ch) to this gallery with more examples from your collection!

Images of the creasing of glassine papers

As part of the research the creasing of glassine papers exposed to high humidity has been investigated. Here there are animated gif representing the development of creasing patterns on glassines exposed to a humid environment, both freely exposed and sandwiched between glass plates mimicking a stack of photographs. The experiments are described in Chapter 5 of the dissertation.  

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