Vol 3 No 1 Suppl. (2019)
Research Articles

The authenticity of the false

Daniela Ferro
Institute for the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage CNR-(ICVBC)
Published August 30, 2019
  • Ancient jewellery,
  • archeometry,
  • fakes,
  • Castellani family,
  • Prenestina fibula
How to Cite
Ferro, D. (2019). The authenticity of the false. Substantia, 3(1), 17-27. https://doi.org/10.13128/Substantia-601


Since its first appearance, the jewel is not a mere expression of vanity and seduction, but it is associated with the decorative function with a multitude of meanings that transform it to all effects into a complex and fascinating communication code [1]. The jewel is a perfect combination of nature, technique and individual creativity that interprets the collective sensibility in the various eras. If we then join up it to its being made of precious metals, it becomes the most advantageous and profitable object of forgery [2]. The fakes and counterfeiters began at much the same time and flourished ever since. Most of the early productions are not very convincing, either stylistically or technically, this was due to a general lack of detailed stylistic information and an almost total ignorance of ancient technology. Until the middle of the last century there was no real science applied to the study of cultural heritage and the falsification or counterfeiting could be unmasked only by stylistic errors or anachronistic details detectable by visual observation although with the help of optical microscopes. With the establishment of Archaeometry, each diagnostic application became a real scientific research [3]. In the present work, the chemical and physical studies on ancient goldsmith’s art in the last forty years, highlight the peculiarity of the manufacturing technique and the scientific knowledge of the artisan, which allows not only to discover modern copies, falsifications or counterfeits, but also to unveil the modern experimental approaches implemented for a faithful reproduction of an ancient jewel.