The Ecuadorian Library
or, The Blast Shack After Three Years
Back in distant, halcyon 2010, I was asked to write something about Wikileaks and its Cablegate scandal. So, I wrote a rather melancholy essay about how things seemed to me to be going — dreadfully, painfully, like some leaden and ancient Greek tragedy.
In that 2010 essay, I surmised that things were going to get worse before they got any better. Sure enough, things now are lots, lots worse. Much worse than Cablegate ever was.
Cablegate merely kicked the kneecap of the archaic and semi-useless US State Department. But Edward Snowden just strolled out of the Moscow airport, with his Wikileaks personal escort, one month after ripping the pants off the National Security Agency.
You see, as it happens, a good half of my essay “The Blast Shack” was about the basic problem of the NSA. Here was the takeaway from that essay back in 2010:
One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers ― in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind.
Well, dear readers, nowadays we do pay that some mind. Yes, that was then, while this is now.
So, I no longer feel that leaden discontent and those grave misgivings that I felt in 2010. The situation now is frankly exhilarating. It no longer has that look-and-feel of the Edgar Allan Poe House of Usher. This scene is straight outta Nikolai Gogol.
This is the kind of comedic situation that Russians find hilarious. I mean, sure it’s plenty bad and all that, PRISM, XKeyScore, show trials, surveillance, threats to what’s left of journalism, sure, I get all that, I’m properly concerned. None of that stops it from being hilarious.
Few geopolitical situations can ever give the Russians a full, free, rib-busting belly laugh. This one sure does.
If Snowden had gotten things his own way, he’d be writing earnest op-ed editorials in Hong Kong now, in English, while dining on Kung Pao Chicken. It’s some darkly modern act of crooked fate that has directed Edward Snowden to Moscow, arriving there as the NSA’s Solzhenitsyn, the up-tempo, digital version of a conscience-driven dissident defector.
But Snowden sure is a dissident defector, and boy is he ever. Americans don’t even know how to think about characters like Snowden — the American Great and the Good are blundering around on the public stage like blacked-out drunks, blithering self-contradictory rubbish. It’s all “gosh he’s such a liar” and “give us back our sinister felon,” all while trying to swat down the jets of South American presidents.
These thumb-fingered acts of totalitarian comedy are entirely familiar to anybody who has read Russian literature. The pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” have more suavity than the US government is demonstrating now. Their credibility is below zero.
The Russians, by contrast, know all about dissidents like Snowden. The Russians have always had lots of Snowdens, heaps. They know that Snowden is one of these high-minded, conscience-stricken, act-on-principle characters who is a total pain in the ass.
Modern Russia is run entirely by spies. It’s class rule by the “siloviki,” it’s Putin’s “managed democracy.” That’s the end game for civil society when elections mean little or nothing, and intelligence services own the media, and also the oil. And that’s groovy, sure, it’s working out for them.
When you’re a professional spy hierarch, there are few things more annoying than these conscience-stricken Winston Smith characters, moodily scribbling in their notebooks, all about how there might be hope found in the proles somehow. They’re a drag.
See, dissidence is like Andrei Sakharov. Such a useful guy, modest, soft-spoken, brainy, built you a hydrogen bomb. This eerie device straight from hell even works, so it’s all good. Then all of a sudden he’s like: you know what? The noble science of physics shouldn’t harm mankind!
What kind of self-indulgent, fatuous gesture is that? Look here, Dr Labcoat: why was the public’s money given to you, if not to “harm mankind”? If physics was harmless, you wouldn’t have a damn salary!
That’s what life feels like for the NSA right now. That is the shoe Snowden laced on their foot. If you’re NSA, as so many thousands are, you’ve known from the get-go that the planet’s wires and cables are a weapon of mass surveillance. Because that is their inherent purpose! You can’t get all conflicted, and start whining that Internet users are citizens of some place or other! That is not the point at all!
Citizens and rights have nothing to do with elite, covert technologies! The targets of surveillance are oblivious dorks, they’re not even newbies! Even US Senators are decorative objects for the NSA. An American Senator knows as much about PRISM and XKeyScore as a troll-doll on the dashboard knows about internal combustion.
So, yes, the wry and mordant humor here has not escaped me. But let’s change perspective a bit. Yes, some time has passed, and the smoke of 2010 has lifted from the scene. The cypherpunk blast shack was blown to smithereens for good and all.
It’s now clear that the NSA has created its own dissidents. The closer they get to the actual living fully functional NSA, the bigger, and hairier, and more consequential these dissidents are.
First let’s consider Bradley Manning, who is not at all close to the NSA. Bradley was a bored and upset minor military technician who burned a zillion US documents onto a DVD, and labeled that “Lady Gaga.”
The authorities finally got around to convicting Bradley this week, of some randomized set of largely irrelevant charges. But the damage there is already done; some to Bradley himself, but mostly grave, lasting damage to the authorities. By maltreating Bradley as their Guantanamo voodoo creature, their mystic hacker terror beast from AlQaedaville, Oklahoma, they made Bradley Manning fifty feet high.
At least they didn’t manage to kill him. Bradley’s visibly still on his feet, and was not so maddened by the torment of his solitary confinement that he’s reduced to paste. So he’s going to jail as an anti-war martyr, but time will pass. Someday, some new entity, someone in power who’s not directly embarrassed by Cablegate, can pardon him.
Some future Administration can amnesty him, once they get around to admitting that Bradley’s War on Terror is history. The War on Terror has failed as conclusively as Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations failed. There’s terror all over the sands now, terror from Mali to Xinjiang, and a billion tender-hearted Bradleys couldn’t stop that bleeding, no matter how much they leak.
Thanks to the modern miracle of fracking, though, the mayhem in the oil patch means a lot less to K Street. Someday, Bradley Manning will be as forgotten to them as Monica Lewinsky is. Then they’ll yield to the hornet-like, persistent buzz of the leftie peaceniks, and let Bradley go. He’s not dangerous. Bradley Manning will never do anything of similar consequence again. He’s not a power player. He’s a prisoner of conscience.
However, unlike poor Monica Lewinsky, Bradley Manning will never lack for passionate adherents who admire him and love him. Before Bradley went into his ugly maelstrom, he didn’t have that. Nowadays, he does. Maybe it’s worth it.
Then there’s Julian Assange. Yeah, him, the silver-haired devil, the Mycroft Holmes of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Bradley Manning’s not at all NSA material, he’s just a leaky clerk with a thumb-drive. But Julian’s quite a lot closer to the NSA — because he’s a career cypherpunk.
If you’re a typical NSA geek, and you stare in all due horror at Julian, it’s impossible not to recognize him as one of your own breed. He’s got the math fixation, the stilted speech, the thousand-yard-stare, and even the private idiolect that somehow allows NSA guys to make up their own vocabulary whenever addressing Congress (who don’t matter) and haranguing black-hat hacker security conventions (who obviously do).
Julian has turned out to be a Tim Leary at the NSA’s psychiatric convention. He’s a lasting embarrassment who also spiked their Kool-Aid. Crushing Julian, cutting his funding, that stuff didn’t help one bit. He’s still got a roof and a keyboard. That’s all he ever seems to need.
There’s nothing quite like a besieged embassy from which to mock the empty machinations of the vengeful yet hapless State Department. House arrest has also helped Julian with this obscure struggle he has, not to fling himself headlong onto Swedish feminists. The ruthless confinement has calmed him; it’s helped him to focus. He’s grown and matured through ardent political struggle.
Julian Assange is still a cranky extremist with a wacky digital ideology, but he doesn’t have to talk raw craziness any more, because the authorities are busy doing that for him. They can’t begin to discuss PRISM and XKeyScore without admitting that their alleged democratic process is a neon façade from LaLaLand. Instead, they’re forced to wander into a dizzying area of discourse where Julian staked out all the high points ten years ago.
More astonishing yet: this guy Assange, and his tiny corps of hacker myrmidons, actually managed to keep Edward Snowden out of US custody. Not only did Assange find an effective bolthole for himself, he also faked one up on the fly for this younger guy.
Assange liberated Snowden, who really is NSA, or rather a civilian outsourced contractor for the NSA, like there’s any practical difference.
It’s incredible to me that, among the eight zillion civil society groups on the planet that hate and fear spooks and police spies, not one of them could offer Snowden one shred of practical help, except for Wikileaks. This valiant service came from Julian Assange, a dude who can’t even pack his own suitcase without having a fit.
I wouldn’t ever have picked Assange as a travel agent, but then just look at the fellow-travellers — the solemn signatories of the recent “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.” I’ll toss a few in as an ideological bloc here, just to memorialize their high-minded indignation.
7iber (Amman, Jordan), Access (International), Africa Platform for Social Protection – APSP (Africa), AGEIA Densi (Argentina), Agentura.ru (Russia), Aktion Freiheit statt Angst (Germany), All India Peoples Science Network (India), Alternatif Bilişim Derneği (Alternatif Bilişim) – Turkey (Turkey), Alternative Law Forum (India), Article 19 (International), ASL19 (Canada/Iran), Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia – ACIJ (Argentina), Asociación de Internautas Spain (Spain), Asociación Paraguaya De Derecho Informático Y Tecnológico – APADIT (Paraguay), Asociación por los Derechos Civiles – ADC (Argentina), Aspiration (United States), Associação Brasileira de Centros de inclusão Digital – ABCID (Brasil), Associació Pangea Coordinadora Comunicació per a la Cooperació (Spain), Association for Progressive Communications – APC (International), Association for Technology and Internet – APTI (Romania), Association of Community Internet Center – APWKomitel (Indonesia), Australia Privacy Foundation – APF (Australia), Bahrain Center for Human Rights (Bahrain), Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication – BNNRC (Bangladesh), Big Brother Watch (United Kingdom), Bits of Freedom (Netherlands), Bolo Bhi (Pakistan), Brasilian Institute for Consumer Defense – IDEC, (Brasil), British Columbia Civil Liberties Association – BCCLA (Canada) Bytes for All (Pakistan)…
Just look at them all, and that’s just the A’s and B’s… Obviously, a planetary host of actively concerned and politically connected people. Among this buzzing horde of eager online activists from a swarm of nations, what did any of them actually do for Snowden? Nothing.
Before Snowden showed up from a red-eye flight from Hawaii, did they have the least idea what was actually going on with the hardware of their beloved Internet? Not a clue. They’ve been living in a pitiful dream world where their imaginary rule of law applies to an electronic frontier — a frontier being, by definition, a place that never had any laws.
The civil lib contingent here looks, if anything, even stupider than the US Senate Intelligence Oversight contingent — who have at least been paying lavishly to fund the NSA, and to invent a pet surveillance court for it, with secret laws. That silly Potemkin mechanism — it’s like a cardboard steering wheel in the cockpit of a Predator drone.
While Julian Assange, to do him credit, has the street smarts to behave as if he’s in a situation of feral realpolitik. Because he is. And how.
However, Assange now knows that. He’s a hardened veteran of it. And he’s gonna stay imperiled for the immediate future, because the upshot of this is pretty easy to see.
The inconvenient truth about the NSA is lying there on a table in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as stark as a poisoned crow. But it’ll join our planet’s many other inconvenient truths.
Snowden told the truth to the public — but then again, so did Solzhenitsyn, and even Al Gore lets on sometimes. The truth doesn’t do the trick for anybody, the truth is just a complicating factor. The present geopolitical situation is absolutely cluttered with amazing lies that didn’t work out for their owners.
The Iraqi weapons of mass destruction never existed. Climate change does exist, and could drown Wall Street any day now. The abject state of global finance is obvious, yet it makes no difference to the ongoing depredations. Drones are stark assassination machines, and they don’t stay classified. Anyone could go on.
And, yeah, by the way, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Google et al, they are all the blood brothers of Huawei in China — because they are intelligence assets posing as commercial operations. They are surveillance marketers. They give you free stuff in order to spy on you and pass that info along the value chain. Personal computers can have users, but social media has livestock.
Even the NSA is humiliated by the billowing clouds of ongoing pretense. Why pick on the NSA, anyway? They’re quiet professionals, well-trained, well-educated, they’re discreet. NSA guys don’t even know what the guy in the next NSA office is doing.
So, who made the NSA the scaly Godzilla, besides one loose civilian contractor who ran off to Hong Kong? What about the National Reconnaissance Office? The NRO never gets outed for their gorgon-stare cameras that can pick out the font on any license plate, anywhere from pole to pole.
What about all the other national cyberwar players, like the Chinese units, methodically spearphishing every Microsoft vuln on the planet? What about those truly ferocious coders who wrote Stuxnet, burned up Iranian atomic factories with raw malware, and who have never been glimpsed since? They’re a hundred times scarier than the kindly and gentlemanly NSA.
But can the NSA speak up for themselves, by leveling with the stakeholders about what really goes on, in the NSA’s actual, lived experience? Nope. Not even. Before Snowden, their mouths were duct-taped; after Snowden, it’ll be duct-tape, plus handcuffs and electronic ankle bracelets.
So, the truth is out there, but nobody’s gonna clean up all that falsehood. There is no visible way to make a clean break with the gigantic, ongoing institutional deceits. There’s no mechanism by which any such honesty could be imposed. It’s like reforming polygamy in the Ottoman Empire.
Even if the proles rise up in a wave, busily Twittering away, you’re gonna get an Arab Spring, followed by a regretful military coup once people figure out that networks just aren’t governments.
Even the electronic civil lib contingent is lying to themselves. They’re sore and indignant now, mostly because they weren’t consulted — but if the NSA released PRISM as a 99-cent Google Android app, they’d be all over it. Because they are electronic first, and civil as a very distant second.
They’d be utterly thrilled to have the NSA’s vast technical power at their own command. They’d never piously set that technical capacity aside, just because of some elderly declaration of universal human rights from 1947. If the NSA released their heaps of prying spycode as open-source code, Silicon Valley would be all over that, instantly. They’d put a kid-friendly graphic front-end on it. They’d port it right into the cloud.
Computers were invented as crypto-ware and spy-ware and control-ware. That’s what Alan Turing was all about. That’s where computing came from, that’s the scene’s original sin, and also its poisoned apple.
There’s not a coherent force on Earth that wants to cork up that bottle. They all just want another slug out of that bottle — and they’d rather like to paste their own personal, prestige label onto the bottle’s glass. You know, like your own attractive face, pasted on the humming planetary big iron of Facebook.
Digital, globalized societies — where capital and information moves, and where labor and human flesh doesn’t move — they behave like this. That is what we are witnessing and experiencing. It’s weird because we are weird. We’re half actual and half digital now. We’re like the squirming brood of a tiger mated to a shark.
You can tell that Manning, Assange and Snowden are all the same kind of irritant, because, somehow, amazingly, the planet’s response is to physically squish them. They’re all online big-time, and their digital shadow is huge, so the response is just to squeeze their mortal human bodies, literally, legally, extra-legally, by whatever means becomes available.
It’s a wrestling match of virtuality and actuality, an irruption of the physical into the digital. It’s all about Bradley shivering naked in his solitary cage, and Julian diligently typing in his book-lined closet at the embassy, and Ed bagging out behind the plastic seating of some airport, in a jetlag fit of black globalization that went on for a solid month.
And, those tiny, confined, somehow united spaces are the moral high ground. That’s where it is right now, that’s what it looks like these days.
You can see that in the recent epic photo of Richard Stallman — the Saint Francis of Free Software, the kind of raw crank who preaches to birds and wanders the planet shoeless – shoulder-to-shoulder with an unshaven Assange, sporting his manly work shirt. The two of them, jointly holding up a little propaganda pic of Edward Snowden.
They have the beatific look of righteousness rewarded. Che Guevara in his starred beret had more self-doubt than these guys. They are thrilled with themselves.
People, you couldn’t trust any of these three guys to go down to the corner grocery for a pack of cigarettes. Stallman would bring you tiny peat-pots of baby tobacco plants, then tell you to grow your own. Assange would buy the cigarettes, but smoke them all himself while coding up something unworkable. And Ed would set fire to himself, to prove to an innocent mankind that tobacco is a monstrous and cancerous evil that must be exposed at all costs.
And yet the three of them together, they look just amazing. They are fantastic figures, like the promise of otherworldly aid from a superhero comic. They are visibly stronger than they’ve ever been before. They have the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness.
And there’s more coming. Lots, lots more.
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.
Fine silver, for example 99.9% pure silver, is relatively soft, so silver is usually alloyed with copper to increase its hardness and strength. Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, and metals other than copper can be used in alloys to reduce tarnishing, as well as casting porosity and firescale. Such metals include germanium, zinc, platinum, silicon, and boron. Recent examples of alloys using these metals include Argentium, Sterlium, Sterilite, and Silvadium.
One of the earliest attestations of the term is in Old French form esterlin, in a charter of the abbey of Les Préaux, dating to either 1085 or 1104. The English chronicler Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142) uses the Latin forms libræ sterilensium and libræ sterilensis monetæ. The word in origin refers to the newly introduced Norman silver penny.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most plausible etymology is derivation from a late Old English steorling (with (or like) a "little star"), as some early Norman pennies were imprinted with a small star. There are a number of obsolete hypotheses. One suggests a connection with starling, because four birds (in fact martlets) were depicted on a penny of Edward I.
Another argument is that the Hanseatic League was the origin for both the origin of its definition and manufacture, and in its name is that the German name for the Baltic is "Ost See", or "East Sea", and from this the Baltic merchants were called "Osterlings", or "Easterlings". In 1260, Henry III granted them a charter of protection. Because the League's money was not frequently debased like that of England, English traders stipulated to be paid in pounds of the Easterlings, which was contracted to sterling. and land for their Kontor, the Steelyard of London, which by the 1340s was also called "Easterlings Hall", or Esterlingeshalle. The Hanseatic League was officially active in the London trade from 1266 to 1597. This etymology may have been first suggested by Walter de Pinchebek (ca. 1300) with the explanation that the coin was originally made by moneyers from that region. The claim has also been made in Henry Spelman's glossary (Glossarium Archaiologicum) as referenced in Commentaries on the Laws of England. Yet another claim on this same hypothesis is from Camden, as quoted in Chamber's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, Volume 4. By 1854, the tie between Easterling and Sterling was well-established, as Ronald Zupko quotes in his dictionary of weights.
The British numismatist Philip Grierson disagrees with the "star" etymology, as the stars appeared on Norman pennies only for the single three-year issue from 1077–1080 (the Normans changed coin designs every three years). Grierson's proposed alternative is that "sterling" derives from "ster"[note 1] meaning "strong" or "stout", by analogy with the Byzantine solidus, originally known as the solidus aureus meaning "solid gold" or "reliable gold". In support of this he cites the fact that one of the first acts of the Normans was to restore the coinage to the consistent weight and purity it had in the days of Offa, King of Mercia. This would have been perceived as a contrast to the progressive debasement of the intervening 200 years, and would therefore be a likely source for a nickname.
S.E. Rigold disputes the origin being Norman, stating, "that, while medieval British coins seldom copy or are copied by those of France, they have many typological connexions with the lands to the east—the Netherlands, the Baltic, Germany, and even deeper regions of central Europe."
The sterling alloy originated in continental Europe and was being used for commerce as early as the 12th century in the area that is now northern Germany.
In England the composition of sterling silver was subject to official assay at some date before 1158, during the reign of Henry II, but its purity was probably regulated from centuries earlier, in Saxon times. A piece of sterling silver dating from Henry II's reign was used as a standard in the Trial of the Pyx until it was deposited at the Royal Mint in 1843. It bears the royal stamp ENRI. REX ("King Henry") but this was added later, in the reign of Henry III. The first legal definition of sterling silver appeared in 1275, when a statute of Edward I specified that 12 Troy ounces of silver for coinage should contain 11 ounces 2 1⁄4 pennyweights of silver and 17 3⁄4 pennyweights of alloy, with 20 pennyweights to the Troy ounce. This is (not precisely) equivalent to a millesimal fineness of 926.
In Colonial America, sterling silver was used for currency and general goods as well. Between 1634 and 1776, some 500 silversmiths created items in the “New World” ranging from simple buckles to ornate Rococo coffee pots. Although silversmiths of this era were typically familiar with all precious metals, they primarily worked in sterling silver. The colonies lacked an assay office during this time (the first would be established in 1814), so American silversmiths adhered to the standard set by the London Goldsmiths Company: sterling silver consisted of 91.5 - 92.5% by weight silver and 8.5–7.5 wt% copper. Stamping each of their pieces with their personal maker's mark, colonial silversmiths relied upon their own status to guarantee the quality and composition of their products.
Colonial silversmiths used many of the techniques developed by those in Europe. Casting was frequently the first step in manufacturing silver pieces, as silver workers would melt down sterling silver into easily manageable ingots. Occasionally, they would create small components (e.g. teapot legs) by casting silver into iron or graphite molds, but it was rare for an entire piece to be fabricated via casting. Next, silversmiths would forge the ingots into the shapes they desired, often hammering the thinned silver against specially shaped dies to "mass produce" simple shapes like the oval end of a spoon. This process occurred at room temperature, and thus is called “cold-working”. The repeated strikes of the hammer work hardened (sterling) silver, causing it to become brittle and difficult to manipulate. To combat work-hardening, silversmiths would anneal their pieces—heat it to a dull red and then quench it in water—to relieve the stresses in the material and return it to a more ductile state. Hammering required more time than all other silver manufacturing processes, and therefore accounted for the majority of labor costs. Silversmiths would then seam parts together to create incredibly complex and artistic items, sealing the gaps with a solder of 80 wt% silver and 20 wt% bronze. Finally, they would file and polish their work to remove all seams, finishing off with engraving and a maker’s mark.
The American revolutionary Paul Revere was regarded as one of the best silversmiths from this “Golden Age of American Silver.” Following the Revolutionary War, Revere acquired and made use of a silver rolling mill from England. Not only did the rolling mill increase his rate of production—hammering and flattening silver took most of a silversmith’s time—he was able to roll and sell silver of appropriate, uniform thickness to other silversmiths. He retired a wealthy artisan, his success partly due to this strategic investment. Although he is celebrated for his beautiful hollowware, Revere made his fortune primarily on low-end goods produced by the mill, such as flatware. With the onset of the first Industrial Revolution, silversmithing declined as an artistic occupation.
From about 1840 to 1940 in the United States and Europe, sterling silver cutlery (US: 'flatware') became de rigueur when setting a proper table. There was a marked increase in the number of silver companies that emerged during that period. The height of the silver craze was during the 50-year period from 1870 to 1920. Flatware lines during this period sometimes included up to 100 different types of pieces.
A number of factors converged to make sterling fall out of favor around the time of World War II. The cost of labor rose (sterling pieces were all still mostly handmade, with only the basics being done by machine). Only the wealthy could afford the large number of servants required for fancy dining with ten courses. And changes in aesthetics resulted in people desiring simpler dinnerware that was easier to clean.
Some countries developed systems of hallmarking silver:
- To indicate the purity of the silver alloy used in the manufacture or hand-crafting of the piece.
- To identify the silversmith or company that made the piece.
- To note the date and/or location of the manufacture or tradesman.
Individual eating implements often included:
- forks (dinner fork, place fork, salad fork, pastry fork, shrimp or cocktail fork)
- spoons (teaspoon, coffee spoon, demitasse spoon, bouillon spoon, gumbo soup spoon, iced tea spoon) and
- knives (dinner knife, place knife, butter spreader, fruit knife, cheese knife).
This was especially true during the Victorian period, when etiquette dictated no food should be touched with one's fingers.
Serving pieces were often elaborately decorated and pierced and embellished with ivory, and could include any or all of the following: carving knife and fork, salad knife and fork, cold meat fork, punch ladle, soup ladle, gravy ladle, casserole-serving spoon, berry spoon, lasagna server, macaroni server, asparagus server, cucumber server, tomato server, olive spoon, cheese scoop, fish knife and fork, pastry server, petit four server, cake knife, bon bon spoon, salt spoon, sugar sifter or caster and crumb remover with brush.
Cutlery sets were often accompanied by tea sets, hot water pots, chocolate pots, trays and salvers, goblets, demitasse cups and saucers, liqueur cups, bouillon cups, egg cups, plates, napkin rings, water and wine pitchers and coasters, candelabra and even elaborate centerpieces.
The interest in sterling extended to business (sterling paper clips, mechanical pencils, letter openers, calling card boxes, cigarette cases), to the boudoir (sterling dresser trays, mirrors, hair and suit brushes, pill bottles, manicure sets, shoehorns, perfume bottles, powder bottles, hair clips) and even to children (cups, cutlery, rattles, christening sets).
Other uses of sterling include:
- Use as surgical and medical instruments as early as Ur, Hellenistic-era Egypt and Rome, and their use continued until largely replaced in Western countries in the mid to late 20th century by cheaper, disposable plastic items and sharper, more durable steel ones. Sterling's natural malleability is an obvious physical advantage, but it is also naturally aseptic.
- Due to sterling silver having a special acoustic character, some brasswind instrument manufacturers use 92.5% sterling silver as the material for making their instruments, including the flute and saxophone. For example, some leading saxophone manufacturers such as Selmer and Yanagisawa have crafted some of their saxophones from sterling silver, which they believe make the instruments more resonant and colorful in timbre.
Tarnish and corrosion
Chemically, silver is not very reactive—it does not react with oxygen or water at ordinary temperatures, so does not easily form a silver oxide. However, it is attacked by common components of atmospheric pollution: silver sulfide slowly appears as a black tarnish during exposure to airborne compounds of sulfur (byproducts of the burning of fossil fuels and some industrial processes), and low level ozone reacts to form silver oxide. As the purity of the silver decreases, the problem of corrosion or tarnishing increases because other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air.
The black silver sulfide (Ag2S) is among the most insoluble salts in aqueoussolution, a property that is exploited for separating silver ions from other positive ions.
Sodium chloride (NaCl) or common table salt is known to corrode silver-copper alloy, typically seen in silver salt shakers where corrosion appears around the holes in the top.
Several products have been developed for the purpose of polishing silver that serve to remove sulfur from the metal without damaging or warping it. Because harsh polishing and buffing can permanently damage and devalue a piece of antique silver, valuable items are typically hand-polished to preserve the unique patinas of older pieces. Techniques such as wheel polishing, which are typically performed by professional jewelers or silver repair companies, are reserved for extreme tarnish or corrosion.
- Britannia silver – A higher grade silver alloy (95.8% compared to Sterling silver's 92.5%)
- Pound sterling – the official currency of the United Kingdom, which once was based on a weight in sterling silver
- Specific citations
- ^"The Care of Silver"; Web article by Jeffrey Herman, silversmith, specialist in silver restoration and conservation. Retrieved 28 Nov 2017.
- ^1Tarnish-Resistant Silver Alloys Silversmithing.com, Retrieved 06-17-2017
- ^The Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society, Volumes 19–20. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
- ^Family, Commerce, and Religion in London and Cologne. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
- ^"sterling, n.1 and adj.". OED Online. December 2011. Oxford University Press. Entry 189985 (accessed February 28, 2012).
- ^Commentaries on the Laws of England. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- ^Chamber's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, Volume 4. December 10, 1887. p. 786.
- ^Zupko, Ronald Edward (1985). A Dictionary of Weights and Measures for the British Isles. Independence Square Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. ISBN 978-0-87169-168-2.
- ^Grierson, Philip. Anglo-Saxon Coins: Studies Presented to F.M. Stenton on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday, 17 May, 1960, edited by R.H.M. Dolley. Taylor & Francis. pp. 266–283. GGKEY:1JURCGTRPJ8. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- ^"The Trail of the Easterlings"(PDF). 1949. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- ^Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons: 1866. Second. House of Commons. 23 March 1866. pp. 14–15. OCLC 11900114.
- ^ abTunis, Edwin (1999). Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry. p. 81.
- ^ abcMartello, Robert (2010). Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise. p. 42.
- ^Tunis, Edwin (1999). Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry. p. 83.
- ^Martello, Robert (2010). Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise. pp. 42–43.
- ^Martello, Robert (2010). Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise. p. 107.
- ^Martello, Robert (2010). Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise. p. 109.
- ^Kauffman, Henry J. (1995). The Colonial Silversmith: His Techniques & His Products. p. 126.
- ^Falino, Jeannine; Ward, Gerald W. R., eds. (2001). New England Silver & Silversmithing 1620–1815. p. 156.
- ^Watt, Susan (2003). "How silver reacts". Silver. The elements. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish. p. 13. ISBN 0-7614-1464-9.
- General references
- All About Antique Silver with International Hallmarks, 2nd printing (2007), by Diana Sanders Cinamon, AAA Publishing, San Bernardino, CA.
- Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, by lexicographer Eric Partridge.
- Silver in America, 1840–1940: A Century of Splendor, third edition (1997), by Charles L. Venable; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY.
- Tiffany Silver Flatware, 1845–1905: When Dining Was an Art, by William P. Hood, Jr.; 1999; published by the Antique Collectors Club Ltd., Suffolk, England.
- The Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers, revised fourth edition (1998), by Dorothy T. Rainwater and Judy Redfield; Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA.
- The Book of Old Silver, English – American – Foreign, With All Available Hallmarks Including Sheffield Plate Marks, by Seymour B. Wyler; 1937; Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, NY.
- International Hallmarks on Silver Collected by Tardy, 5th English Language reprint (2000); original publication date unknown, date of first softcover publication 1985; author unknown; publisher unknown.
- Falino, Jeannine; Ward, Gerald W. R., eds. (2001). New England Silver & Silversmithing 1620–1815. Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
- Kauffman, Henry J. (1995). The Colonial Silversmith: His Techniques & His Products. Mendham, NJ: Astragal. p. 42. ISBN 978-1879335653.
- Tunis, Edwin (1999). Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. ISBN 978-0801862281.
- Martello, Robert (2010). Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. ISBN 978-0801897580.
- ^From ancient Greek στερεός [stereos] = 'solid'.