Roller press, gold plate swaging

Circa 1900
Gold rollers were an essential step in the making of swaged gold dentures. For approximately a century and a half, various descriptions exist concerning the creation of artificial dentures with gold bases, which could be subsequently enamelled to hide the conspicuous gold. Rollers such as this were used to swage the gold (to bend or press the gold).

From 1757, Etienne Bourdet described and illustrated an artificial denture with a gold base which was enamelled. However for some time, the exact methods utilised to produce this were unclear. In 1820, the idea was conceived to make "a negative impression in fine foundry sand of a positive plaster model of a mouth and pouring a positive model of lead or some other metal which was then used as a die for striking of the gold plate. The next advance was to cast the model or die in zinc, to cast a counter-die to it in lead and to swage the gold plate between the die and its counter-die...Swaging of gold plates as denture bases persisted for over a century. It was still being taught to dental students and they were still required to be able to pass a practical examination on it in Great Britain until the 1940's, although it had been gradually superseded by lost wax casting since 1907 when the new methods of Taggart, Solbrig and others became known." (J. A. Donaldson, The use of Gold in Dentistry: An Historical Overview. Part II p.160)

This roller was a gift to the museum by Dr Peter Harper, who acquired the item from Dr Collins, an early practitioner in Albury.
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Object detail

Circa 1900
steel, wood
58.0 x 77.0 x 63.0 cm
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr Peter Harper, 2008
Object Type
Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum Category


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