Metal reproductions and the Treasures of Ireland
What is a replica?
A replica is an object which is made to look like an existing artefact. The objects in this exhibition were made around 100 years ago to look like artefacts which are 800-1200 years old.
Supply and demand
The demand for plaster copies of Irish high crosses was generally restricted to industrial exhibitions and museums. On the other hand, metal replicas of other objects such as brooches were mass-produced by a number of jewellers in Dublin (Waterhouse and Company, Dame Street; West & Son, College Green; William Acheson & Company Grafton Street; Edmond Johnston Ltd, Grafton Street and Hopkins & Hopkins of O’Connell Street).
Replicas and fashion
The fashion of wearing replica jewellery was instigated in 1851 when Queen Victoria purchased a copy of the Cavan brooch at the Great Exhibition, held at Crystal Palace, London. In 1850 the ‘Tara’ brooch was discovered and passed to Waterhouse & Company, who subsequently presented it as one of the main objects of archaeological interest at the Great Exhibition where copies were available for sale.
Edmond Johnson's catalogue
In 1879 Edmond Johnson, one of Dublin’s foremost goldsmiths, started restoration work on the Ardagh Chalice and was later given permission to make copies of it and other objects. The replicas were much sought after with Johnson’s own catalogue listing the Chicago (1893), Paris (1900) and Glasgow (1901) expositions as well as ‘the principle museums of America, Great Britain and the Continent’ among his clients.
Electrolysis was employed in replica manufacture in the nineteenth century. Electrotypes are made by submerging a lead-coated plaster mould, taken from the original object, in a copper sulphide solution. Copper is deposited on the mould when an electric charge is applied to the solution. This reproduces accurately the surface of the original object. The replica is then pieced together, coloured and inlayed with decorative panels or studs.
Stamping using a die was a common way of mass-producing decorative panels or sections of replicas. A single die or stamp was manufactured bearing the inverted image of the required decorative panel. The die or stamp was then applied, with force, against a thin sheet of metal and the decoration embossed on the surface. A single die could be used numerous times. In some cases the stamp would cut the decoration away from the parent sheet of metal. Once the panels were stamped and cut the replica was pieced together, coloured and inlayed with decorative panels or studs.
Replicas in the Exhibition
(Please note that all images of the metal objects are of the original artefacts)