Can anybody identify this mysterious brass disk?
June 30, 2012 9:49 PM   Subscribe

When a friend's grandfather died, the family found a drawer full of mysterious brass disks. The grandfather had a lot of random scrap metal and other odd items around the house and grounds. The disks are pretty much identical and appear to be brass. My friend told me that at some point someone brought one to a jeweler or something and they were told that the disks were brass with a small amount of gold mixed in.

This particular one weighs 210 grams, which is 7.4 ounces. It is 2 and 1/16 inches across at the bottom and 1.5 inches across at the top. I don't know if they are all exactly the same, but I have seen one other one and they look pretty much the same. Does anyone have any idea what this could be?

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posted by Slinga to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 PM on June 30, 2012

It looks like someone got hold of some scrap metal and melted it down and poured it into a crucible or something, and cast that shape. My dad had a much smaller but similar-shaped one made of mostly gold which he'd cast from collecting his old gold fillings and some bits of jewelry; he'd melted it all down and saved it in that form so he could store and measure it easily, and show us kids, "This is what a lump of gold looks like."
posted by The otter lady at 9:58 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, those may not be made of brass. Try figuring out the volume so you can get the density?
posted by dunkadunc at 10:01 PM on June 30, 2012

If they are brass (and putting a bit of gold into brass wasn't unusual for brass fancy work--or for musical instruments--in the early 20th century), they may be "blanks" for engraved paperweights, that would have been engraved on the domed side with a fraternal organization symbol and commemorative texts, for example, then had some felt or baize glued to the flat side. You'll see a bunch of engraved brass paperweights on eBay.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:15 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

counter weights for use on a scale???
posted by chapps at 10:15 PM on June 30, 2012

What was the grandfather's occupation?
posted by Joh at 10:22 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Weights for holding maps or charts open/down on a flat surface?
posted by mosk at 1:06 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

What's going on with what looks like a pinhole in the middle of the smooth side?

My immediate thought as a metalsmith is that they're something nto unlike casting buttons. A volume of metal that you can't just throw away, but have no actual use for. Maybe he kept his scrap and smelted it into these buttons every so often.

That is, if he was some kind of metalsmith as I assumed automatically for some reason.
posted by cmoj at 1:33 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if they were purpose-made or not, but two boat captains I know have brass blanks like that in a similar size for their charts/maps, like mosk suggested. My architect friend has something similar made out of stainless steel for rolled drawings. All three of them have rough bottoms like that, like it was just dumped into the mold and left to fend for itself, without smoothing or polishing.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:01 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My grandfather was a land surveyor, and had a couple things that looked similar to that that he used to hold down large maps.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2012

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