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Restoration of a Rock Crystal Lamp

Among the almost 200 items made from rock crystal in the Hermitage collection that were created in the Middle East and are dated to the 10th and 11th centuries, this lamp is the only one of its kind. It shape is unique: parallels for it are hard to find, not only in rock crystal, but also in metal and ceramics. The high artistic standard of the craftsmanship, the elegance of the decoration and the excellent quality of the mineral itself all make it possible to suggest that the lamp was made in one of the best court workshops under the caliphs.

Like many other rock crystal articles, this lamp was taken to Europe in the Middle Ages. In the 16th century Italian craftsmen made a new base for it and mounted it in gold.

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In the course of restoration, the lamp was completely dismantled, traces of a previous restoration were eliminated and the broken attachment of the joints was repaired. Oxidation and accumulations of dirt and grease were removed from the surface of the lamp using nanosecond pulsed fibre laser cleaning. Deformed gold elements in the mounting, gaps and cracks were made good using millisecond pulsed laser soldering (for which soldering wire was specially made). The restorers made good losses, cracks and chips on the surface of the enamel. After the lamp was reassembled, all the metal elements of the pieces were coated with polymer for protection against corrosion, as was the surface of the polychrome enamel.

This unique item takes its place in the permanent display of the Department of the East on the top floor of the Winter Palace.

The restoration work was performed by the staff of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Precious Metals under the leadership of Igor Malkiel.

The project was carried out with the support of the House of Cartier.