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Case study

A Hidden Musical Surprise

Read about the conservation of a silver inkstand with a hidden musical mechanism

<p>A parcel gilt inkstand in the form of a rowing boat with planking and a central rib, with a pierced gallery at either side and entwined gilt snakes at either end, their coils forming supports for the boat. Fitted with a central rectangular well of cast
Inkstand ©

Our conservators recently restored a tiny musical movement hidden inside a nineteenth-century silver inkstand (RCIN 49883).

The mechanism was discovered during preparations for a catalogue raisonné of Continental Silver in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen (forthcoming). Metal specialists working on the inkstand noticed that the central seal was unusually heavy, and closer examination revealed the miniscule mechanism hidden in its base. 

Close up of the music box mechanism during repair

Music box mechansim during repair ©

The movement was sent to our in-house horological conservators, who replaced and repaired several tiny parts. 

Special tools were required to accommodate the object's miniscule scale.

Watch this short film to hear the full story of the mechanism's restoration – and hear it play its music once again.

Object featured in this case study

Find out more in our Collection Online

Johann Christian Sick (1766-1824)
Inkstand circa 1810
    RCIN 49883

    A parcel gilt inkstand in the form of a rowing boat with planking and a central rib, with a pierced gallery at either side and entwined gilt snakes at either end, their coils forming supports for the boat. Fitted with a central rectangular well of cast stiff leaves, the flat lid with an oval reserve in which sits an oval gold fob seal with a lyre-...

    Processes used in this case study

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    Cog being picked up by tweasers
    Process
    Repair