The decorative plumes on the headdress of the Buddha are inherently weak points and two of them had been broken off. As adhesives would not create a very robust repair without added reinforcement, and normal hot repairs, though strong, cause damage and discolouration of the patina, which we and the client wanted to avoid, the decision was made to laser weld them back into position.
Our laser welding equipment is ideal for small welded repairs on small sculptures such as this, as well as jewellery and enamelware, because although the metal at the point of weld reaches extremely high temperatures, it is for a fraction of a second only and the heat dissipates so quickly that adjacent patinas, enamels and gemstones are undamaged. In this case, as can be seen in the illustration the only area where the patina had to be toned in was the location of the weld itself.
Hall Conservation Ltd. is researching the possibilities of extending the use of laser welding in conservation, both on small scale objects and, using or adapting industrial equipment, on larger scale objects too.