29th February 2024

Pearl Buttons on Foil: part 2

What was the ” foil” that was used as a backing behind pearl buttons as described by Dickens in 1852? It may have been “silver paper”. Dating from the last decades of the 18th century, “silver paper” was actually a form of white tissue paper, initially used by jewellers to wrap items of gold and silver, and perhaps giving the paper its name. Coloured silver paper was developed during the reign of William IV, including actual silver. Plain silver paper was brushed with a starch paste then layered with thin silver leaf. For an interesting article on this, see  https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/before-silver-paper-was-silver/.

I found “gold and silver sheet paper” for sale in Sydney dated 1823, and an article describing the theft of jewellery from a store where it was stated that ” The jewellery are always covered with silver paper …”

The Tasmanian (Hobart Town), 4th November 1836 page 7. From a description of making plaster copies of medals or coins.

At some stage, the foil used would have changed to tin-foil, and later, aluminium foil. Aluminium foil was manufactured from 1910 but is still sometimes called tin foil, the product which it superseded. Tin-foil was referred to in newsprint  from the 1820s, although at this stage it was sometimes actually lead foil being referred to.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8th May 1928 page 7. If this article is accurate, the “invention” of tin foil in America described below  may refer to the innovation of industrial production.

The Daily News (Perth), 8th September 1906 page 18.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 22nd August 1940 page 20. Children were collecting used metal for the war efforts.

The Herald (Melbourne), 17th January 1950 page 12.

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