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SML gold horns ~ the rest of the story...

Discussion in 'Material Matters' started by Gandalfe, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    From Matt Stohrer's Tech Blog:

    Ok, ok- so I can almost hear you wondering: Why did you put “Gold Plate” in quotes? What is Perma-Gold? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it does not look as if SML made many (if any) saxophones of this era that were actually plated in real gold. Instead, if the horn looks like this one- a combination of buttery-yellow matte and flat finish- the horn is actually the Perma-Gold finish, which is a zinc dichromate plating over zinc (not gold over silver). It wears off in flakes like lacquer rather than slowly wearing through like plating and was a finish used only by SML, though it can still be found used in other non-musical instrument applications today. It doesn't tarnish and it doesn't polish, and it will burn with excessive heat just like lacquer. Unless they actually DID use any real gold plate (which I am not convinced they did outside of a few exhibition horns) this was their top-of-the-line finish, and it looks the part, real gold or not.
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator


    * After about five years of doing SML research, I have not found a gold-plated Gold Medal horn.
    * Perma-Gold finish is mentioned in some catalogs. How far back? I dunno.

    I have an SML that is silver with gold highlights pictured on Saxpics.com. However, it's a Rev. A: you're talking 1930s. I've also got a Rev. C that appears to be gold. Y'all can check through the rest of my Rev. D pics: there are a lot that I've listed as gold.

    If you look at a really minty example, I'd say that it looks an awful lot like the gold-plated horns I've seen from other companies. However, I'm not a tech and I've only owned one gold-plated horn ....
  3. Pardon if this is a double post, it doesn't look like my first one took.

    Here is an image of a Perma Gold sax: [​IMG]

    Here is a video of the same horn: [video=youtube_share;qVtP2dMROXE]http://youtu.be/qVtP2dMROXE[/video]

    I have looked through those photos and they all look Perma-Gold to me. It is quite distinctive when held up next to a horn that is actually gold, such as this bad boy: [​IMG]

    or this one:
  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I can't believe I pressed the wrong button again ....

    Ok, summarizing what I wrote and lost:

    * I have no doubt that you have a Perma-Gold finished horn. You're the tech. You've worked with a lot of gold-plated horns and I haven't. Also, as mentioned, I've only owned one gold-plated horn. I just find it interesting that other folks that have sold SMLs haven't mentioned this.
    * I do wonder when "Perma-Gold" was first available and if other horns (even from different makers) are finished with it. I saw trademark info for "Perma-Gold" that went back to 1964, but the Rev. D came out in 1951.
    * Most folks that talk about "Perma-Gold" online refer back to Fred Cicetti's article, where he mentions Perma-Gold being a lacquer finish on SML Standard models. I know a lot more about SML now and I also know that Standard models really weren't a "separate horn line" or something like that.
    * We all should be aware that gold does not bind to brass, so you have to silverplate a horn, then goldplate it. One of the things I tell someone who doesn't know if he's got a gold lacquer horn or a gold-plated horn is to look to see if there's a worn area on the horn where silver is peeking through. Zinc, in the Perma-Gold stuff, looks an awful lot like silver.
    * I did see that WorldWideSax.com does describe a horn as "Perma-Gold Plate." I asked my wife if she could tell me if that one was gold plated or if this one was. She said the tenor was gold plate (which might save me on jewelry costs in the future).
    * I do get the point about "flaking." Checking some SML pics described as "gold," I can see spotting and flaking, where other known-gold-plated horns (Conns, Bueschers) have kind of an "even" wear pattern, but then you see something like this.
    * An SOTW'er mentioned that there was a lawsuit between gold companies and the folks making "Perma-Gold" because they look too similar -- I assume that the flap was over the name "Perma-Gold" rather than calling it "I can't believe it's not gold!" -- but I could not find any other reference to this.
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

  6. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Selmer produced some Adolphe Sax saxophones in the late 1920s and early 1930s. One of the finishes offered was "Perm. gold." I have repaired some of these horns, and although the finish looks like satin gold plate, it behaves more like lacquer. It is definitely not an electroplated finish. I've attached an old Selmer advertisement for the Adolphe Sax instruments (courtesy of Leo Van Oostrom) showing the various finishes available, including "Perm gold"

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  7. Extremely interesting stuff, saxpics and groovekiller. Thanks for sharing.

    Most interesting thing to me is the "Perm. Gold" finish on the Adolphe instruments was cheaper than silver plate!
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Here's a horn. When I posted it to Saxpics.com years ago, I called it "lacquer." It does look a lot like the SMLs listed above and the bow has some flaking.

    Very interesting.
  9. Wow, awesome sleuthing Pete.
  10. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I think that is perma gold.
  11. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I'd agree, Groove.

    I do have an on again/off again project where I'm cataloging all the known AJ Sax, AE Sax and Selmer Sax instruments, but I haven't gotten down to the Selmer horns, yet. I just checked my old archive.

    Well, Matt. Nice little bombshell ya got there :p.
  12. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Definitely. The "Permagold" seems to be a sprayed-on gold emulsion that resembles gold plate, but is much cheaper. Like the modern finishes, it looks good when new, but doesn't hold up after years of wear.
  13. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Related to the conversation at hand, what do you guys make gold that many of the German manufacturers used inside the bells of saxophones? I've never been clear if it's gold or if it's lacquer. I'm thinking here for example, of this Hammerschmidt-stencilled Hüttl, or the Oscar Adler, or this G.H. Hüller. Many of these horns have a deep golden colour to their inner bells.
  14. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Gold plating inside of the bells of many instruments, from many manufacturers, is a "gold wash." It's a true gold plating, but there isn't much gold. Polish it regularly with a rouge cloth, or even silver polish and it will wear off. I think it was mostly intended to cover up the change in color where the silver plate changed to bare brass on the inside of a sax bell, where it could be seen.
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Additionally, some manufactures really didn't use "gold wash" they used a kind of "copper wash." http://www.cybersax.com/BellWashes.html (although the comment about a wash being in the bell of all silver-plated horns is incorrect: it was an additional fee).
  16. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Sorry, I should have been more specific. I was also referring to the wear that we see on this particular "gold" finish on the German horns I mentioned. They seem to not wear down like other traditional gold washes do. Instead they flake or chip off.

    I have a Hammerschmidt tenor for example, that like my Buescher bass, has only the faintest amount of gold left due to vigorous polishing over the years. (Before I got said horns.) The Hammerschmidt-made Hüttl I linked to though, has a totally different gold colour in the bell. This flaking is what made me think that perhaps it's not gold at all, but rather lacquer. (Which might also explain its dark golden colour.)

    Yeah, I just so have happened to written about a Buescher C mel the other day with that copper wash, made to resemble rose gold. I even quote Bear and everything. ;-)
  17. kymarto

    kymarto Content Expert/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Checked my baby Selmer sop with silver plate: no wash, and the entire inside appears to be silver plated. The first 15 cm or so inside the bell is shiny, then it gets matte. Is that unusual--that the entire inside is plated? I thought that was SOP...
  18. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I'm not an expert on plating, but it seems that electroplating tends to fade out as it extends deeper into the hollows of instrument interiors. If I'm wrong, I'd like to hear an informed explanation.
    The interior plating of kymarto's soprano is typical. The silver plating is fairly thick. If there was ever a gold wash, it might have been polished away - or not.
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