To reply to all the replies (gosh, this gets difficult)

> ------------------------------
> Date:    Thu, 9 Mar 2006 04:17:59 EST
> From:    Catherine Stallybrass <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Gold thread/wire and weaving
> In a message dated 09/03/2006 00:35:40 GMT Standard Time, [log in to unmask]
> writes:
> My  husband (the metals guy around here) says that wire was drawn through
> hard  wood plates very early. The wire might not have been very long (they 
> drew
> it  with their teeth - or so the theory goes - he does not entirely 
> endorse
> this  idea as there were other ways they might have done it that would 
> have
> worked  better and been less taxing) but if the wire is in shorter lengths 
> it might
> have less tendency to break.
> Has he tried this?  I use a hard wood draw plate for finishing 
> trichinopoly
> work chains (Knitted silver wire like those found in Viking period 
> Denmark)
> and it does move the wire into place but the wire  gradually eats  the 
> draw
> plate and my feeling would be that to use it to try and draw wire would 
> simply
> result in larger holes in the plate rather than smaller wire!  And I 
> would
> simply hate to use my teeth - the forces used are much too strong! What 
> period
> are we talking about? For most of the time that gold wire is around,  I'm
> certain they had perfectly good gripping tools to hold wire etc.

Well, that's what Pat thinks as well :-)

He has used hardwood draw plates made with oak and found that they will work 
for a certain amount of time. They do wear out, but he seems to recall some 
finds of iron drawplates. The problem is that iron (rather than steel) wears 
at about the same rate as hardwood. His personal theory is that until steel 
plates became the norm, both types of draw plates were probably used but 
that the amount of wire and the lengths were limited. But that's only a 

It does explain why really good-sized, fine mesh papermaking screens were 
rare in Europe until relatively late: wire would have been a fairly rare: 
the expense tended to support a vellum industry rather than a larger paper 

> As far as weaving with silver wire is concerned, it works fine with tablet
> braid - that's what I've been drawing wire for!  It's actually a lot nicer 
> to
> use than the thin sheet metal that so many of the tablet bands used.   But 
> yes
> I do anneal and pickle it when I've finished drawing it - the weaving 
> seems
> to give it a polish to get rid of any tarnish (I don't know how gold would
> respond - I can't afford to play with that!)

Well, I wouldn't have been able to afford it unless someone else had been 
footing the bill, either. And they wanted real gold wire, based on a very 
weird interpretation of a Biblical description that appears to not have had 
much weaving knowledge behind it, but quite a lot of preconcieved notions 
fueling the entire exercise.

> Date:    Thu, 9 Mar 2006 04:42:00 EST
> From:    Keith Hunt <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Gold thread/wire and weaving
> In a message dated 09/03/2006 09:23:41 GMT Standard Time,
> [log in to unmask] writes:
> The wire  might not have been very long (they drew
> it  with their teeth - or so  the theory goes -
> Now there's an interesting thought [gripped in leather or cloth between 
> the
> teeth maybe].
> Both hands free to work the wire, much more sensitive pull than a hanging
> stone as I previously suggested, great secrecy.
> Hum.

Yes, but it isn't really all that efficient from the "length" point of 
view... I dunno. I found the wire extremely frustrating to weave with and I 
suspect that most wire was used for jewellery, not "thread".

> Date:    Thu, 9 Mar 2006 14:23:05 -0000
> From:    Mike Weatherley <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Draw Plates
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Kathy Page" <[log in to unmask]>
>> A discussion came up recently with one of my collegues
>> about the history and production of gold wire, of the
>> variety that could be woven into cloth or wrapped
>> around a thread core and embroidered with. The issue
>> arose around attempting to date the objects based on
>> the weight and type of the threads being used. I had
>> picked up from somewhere that the use of silk core
>> wrapped with gold wire (usually called passing thread
>> to modern broderers) was not used until a draw plate
>> was made that could take the strain of making wire
>> that fine - which a goldsmith I had consulted gave me
>> a range number of about .26 mm, or roughly slightly
>> heavier than a human hair. And suggested that it was
>> not the draw plate, but the annealing that likely was
>> the issue. Another had suggested it was the drilling
>> technology that likely had to evolve first. I really
>> don't know.
>> A recent project of mine stuck the date of this
>> occuring to about post 1500. But, it quickly didn't
>> add up, realising that draw plates in general have
>> been around since the Romans and cloth of gold was
>> even older.
> Yes, Celts were using draw-plates for making wire
> several centuries BC, which Romans adopted.
>> There is a second, and likely older
>> process of creating this type of thread, which is
>> beating the metal to paper thin, cutting into fine
>> strips and winding it onto a thicker core, producing a
>> heavier thread (referred to modernly as japan thread).
>> By far more difficult to pass through fabric than the
>> wire-wrapped thinner core. It would be fine to weave
>> or couch embroider with, however.
> Didn't the Spitalfields Roman burial displayed in the
> Museum of London have Gold thread manufactured
> this way woven into her dress? Try asking them.
> Mike

I seem to recall that a silk core was used for some similar thread from a 
Norse site (cannot, for the life of me, remember where I read this) and that 
makes sense to me. Andrew mentioned this as well, I think, in connection 
with silver, and gold is even softer than silver, so it makes sense.

> Date:    Thu, 9 Mar 2006 21:48:59 -0000
> From:    Mark Bell <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Draw plates
> For producing small amounts of wire modern jewellers use a steel 
> drawplate.
> Lubrication is essential - usually beeswax and frequent annealing of the
> wire is essential otherwise you don't get a smooth pull. Sterling silver 
> is
> about 7% copper which gives it the hardness needed for everyday use. With
> pure gold or silver it should be possible to work wire using a hardwood 
> die.
> Most of the skill of the ancient jeweller was in choosing the material to
> work with and getting the right alloy for the job.
> The first description of a draw plate is given in Theophillus' On Divers
> Arts - about 1100 AD, but his description is a bit vague - a thin plate
> narrowed at top and bottom. Because he is so vague it has been suggested
> that it was already in common use.

Again, this makes sense. Either it was common knowledge - or else a "Guild 
Secret" where essential details were only divulged to the initiated, and so 
he was only able to give general outline information?

>> Date:    Wed, 8 Mar 2006 10:52:27 +0000
>> From:    Chris Salter <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: Draw Plates
>> Normal gold and silver alloys work harden. If there are PGE inclusions 
>> pr=
>> esent they will cause problems with dies as they are very hard.
>> You need a certain amount of work hardening otherwise it is very 
>> difficul=
>> t to draw wires.
>> In message <[log in to unmask]> British archaeology discussion 
>> =
>> list <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>> > In a message dated 08/03/2006 04:16:34 GMT Standard Time, =20
>> > [log in to unmask] writes:
>> >=20
>> > My only  question to this would be holding
>> > the two pieces in a tight enough vice to  take the
>> > tension without collapsing while the wire is  being
>> > pulled.
>> > =20
>> It would depend on the deformation done in each die, So if the step down 
>> =
>> in die diameter bewtween dies is very small it might be possible.=20
>> > Hi Kathy,
>> > =20
>> > The two irregular stone halves of a split gold wire drawing block may 
>> > h=
>> ave =20
>> > been held in fired clay.
>> > Copper work-hardens - does gold & silver ?
>> > Is modern steel wire annealed between all pulls ?
>> > =20
>> > I know that I should know such things but my R&D work was on carbon 
>> > fi=
>> bre.

Some drawplates are solid blocks of wood, I think (Pat's not home and so I 
cannot check on that - this part isn't my field at all.)

I think all metals do "work harden", though...I do know that the annealed 
gold I was using work hardened !!As I Wove It!! - very annoying.

> ------------------------------
> Date:    Thu, 9 Mar 2006 21:59:31 +0000
> From:    Mark Bell <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Gold thread/wire and weaving
> Why should they draw it with their teeth? The Bishopsland hoard from
> Kildare - now in the National Museum in Dublin, is Bronze age in date and
> includes what looks like a perfectly good gripping tool.

Yeah. Like I said: it's theory, but not one that a working metals person 
would agree with without some other supporting evidence.

Anyway, it is interesting although I do think that tabletweaving would be 
more likely to support gold wire inlay techniques, as opposed to weaving 
actual yardgoods - which I know from (bitter) experience is not really 

I would suspect that any weaving of large pieces, especially for garments, 
would have used the "flat foil wrapped around a core thread" method, not 

Morgan Smith