Specific gravity beads

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made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Specific gravity beads.
© National Museums Scotland

Specific gravity beads

Specific gravity beads are used to measure the density of a liquid at a given temperature and thus its alcohol content. These beads were made around 1805, probably by Edinburgh-based glass-blower P. Massino, who emigrated to Scotland from Italy.

The glass beads are contained in a wooden box. The box holds 8 of a set of 12 beads (the others are missing). A printed label inside the lid has the maker's name and directions to prove spirits with beads '22' to '32' and '34'.

From the late 18th century, immigrant Italians arrived in Britain in some numbers. The particular trades they brought with them were glass-blowing and carving and gilding, which extended naturally into looking-glass and barometer manufacture.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-044-459-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1944.2
Date: Around 1805
Dimensions: 3.50" D x 1.63" deep (box)
What: Bead, gravity / box
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Hydrostatics (Departmental Classification)
Who: Pillassino, St Mary's Wynd, Edinburgh (Gravity bead maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Box of eight gravity beads with data in lid, made by Pillassino, St Mary's Wynd, Edinburgh
  • Bryden, D.J. Scottish Scientific Instrument Makers 1660-1900. Edinburgh, 1972. p 53 
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