Gateway Object: Rose Ornament

Nickel plated rose with leaves shaped coffin ornament
greyscale Illustration of various types of coffin ornament


Newman Brothers were known for their variety of finishes. This rose ornament has been nickel-plated to achieve the oxi-silver finish we see here.

First the plate is gently heated to allow smooth application of a black lacquer. This lacquered plate is then polished to remove the black lacquer and reveal silvered parts underneath creating this oxi-silver finish as seen here.

The process of producing creating black-lacquer involved dissolving platinum into nitro-hydrochloric acid and then dissolving the crystallised result in spirit of wine, ether, or water. This produces a solution that can be mixed with any of the bronzing powders, such as crocus, sienna or rouge. After applying the lacquer, liquid ammonia could be applied to lighten areas if needed.


Roses have long served as symbols of the Virgin Mary which made them popular coffin furniture ornaments amongst Catholics. Among some Christians Mary is known as the “mystic rose” or the “rose without thorns” as she is thought to be without sin (sin represented by thorns). A traditional prayer that people pray to Mary while reflecting on the earthly life of her son Jesus Christ, is called the Rosary. The Rosary, which means “crown of roses,” involves offering a group of prayers to Mary and has been described as a spiritual bouquet.

Roses are also symbolic of a life cut short. Buds represented children, and roses in full bloom, as shown here, may be illustrative of someone in the prime of their life.

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