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Subject: Shagreen

Shagreen

From: Richard O. Byrne <robyrne<-a>
Date: Friday, April 11, 2008
Emily Lin <nilylime [at] hotmail__com> writes

>I am a student of the art conservation program at Queen's
>University. I am writing to request sources of shagreen for the
>microscope box that I am treating. The box has a shagreen covering,
>which was dyed green, and much of it has been lost.
>
>In a previous posting on this list, I learned that shagreen consists
>of the untanned skin of sharks, with the placoid scales being
>smoothened and polished.

The problem with restoring shagreen is that often it is not shark
skin, but some other leather with the pebbled surface texture of
shark skin embossed on it.  True shagreen is a rather
rough-and-ready material and is used on sword handles, trapeze bars
and other uses where a secure grip is needed. Most of the artifacts
that have come my way that had "shagreen" upholstery on them were in
reality embossed leather.

In 1976 while working for CCI, in their then regional office in
Moncton, NB, we had the challenge of finding true shagreen. We asked
Wilkinson Sword in England and they were looking for some too. So we
had a shark hide shipped from Florida to New Brunswick and we used a
small amount to rebuild a French officer's sword handle. I think the
rest was shipped to Wilkinson as a thank you for the help they gave
us on the project.

Contacting CCI in Ottawa should result in the object file with an
Atlantic Conservation Centre number (ACC) and a copy can be
forwarded to you. I no longer have the CCI file number. I do have a
slide of the handle if you would like to see it to compare with the
object you are working on.

A further thought comes to mind for embossed shagreen replacement
leather: check out the leather suppliers for shoe and handbag
manufactures. They probably will have some embossed leathers in
stock. See if you can get it before they put their high finish and
colours into it. A trip to a high end shoe store should identify
manufactures, and then back track through them to tanners.

Richard O. Byrne
Consultant Architectural Conservator


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Received on Friday, 11 April, 2008

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