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Please can you tell us a little bit more about these pieces? Are they enamelled metal, made by firing enamel at high temperatures, or are they a baked-on paint like Duco used on cars? What kind of cooking processes are they used in?
In the UK, usually a museum applies an accession number to the items in the collection, which are then not used. Marking items in the working or handling collection is less common. If the items are containers (e.g. pans or bowls) which can withstand heat and which have the food on the inside, then a Sharpie could be used to write on the outside and the identification baked on to make it longer lasting. You might be able to use a stencil to make the writing more uniform and neat).
It will need to be checked and possibly reapplied after a number of uses/washes. I would not apply a number to any surface which will be next to the food before it is cooked.
Any marking which disrupts the physical surface (eg etching or engraving) should be avoided if the surface is a fired enamel as this will damage the glass structure of the enamel and may allow moisture through to the underlying metal, causing corrosion. We were always warned not to use items with damaged enamel surfaces for food preparation).
Hope this helps