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arts, jewellery and watchmaking

There is a close link between Art, Jewellery, and Sciences

For several years now, Art,  Jewellery and Watchmaking have been closely linked by a need for expertise and characterization. Science plays an important part in understanding the evolution of society through works of art, or Jewellery. Whether it is to characterize a canvas support, an ink, or to authenticate precious stones, it is necessary to use laboratory tools. Unfortunately, many of these tools imply a destructive analysis of the objects to be studied, and very few allow to go to the heart of the matter, which can be problematic in a sector where most of the pieces are rare or even unique. Moreover, a vast majority of non-destructive techniques are based on optical principles, which, if they are opaque, only allow a surface analysis of the objects to be studied. The major advantage of computed tomography lies in the fact that all the information, inner, as outer, is visible, and this, without any alteration of the part being studied and whatever the material.  


This is where X-ray tomography comes into play, because the major advantage of tomography lies in the fact that all the information, both internal and external, is visible without any alteration to the part being studied, whatever the material.


Nowadays, more and more laboratories, companies and museums are equipping themselves with one or more tomographs, following the example of the French gemmology laboratory in the heart of Paris, the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).


Radiography and tomography to reveal smallest secrets of work of Art

Whether for X-ray imaging or complete CT scans, the possibilities offered by RX Solutions' equipment are numerous. Our range of equipment allows our users to analyze and/or digitize a wide range of works, from the smallest to the most voluminous and dense. 

The use of X-rays is today an excellent non-destructive way to study the artist (or the craftsman) technique and materials he used, and the condition of unique works of art, without damaging them. As an example, for paintings, X-rays can be used to determine how the artist created his work, whether retouching has been done, or whether there are any additions to the canvas. Microtomography for its part, allows to study all kinds of statues, and how they were designed, what materials were used, etc...  

Beyond the analytical application of these techniques, our micro-tomography cabinets allow us to digitize these unique works, to record a digital volume of them. This allows, the saving and the sharing of knowledge between historians, museum curators, but also sociologists and anthropologists. The aim is to make it easier to study the evolution of different cultures at different times.

Here are some examples of applications of radiography and tomography:

  • Acquisition of radiographic and tomographic images of sculpted works to study their making methods, but also to determine their state of preservation (search for cracks, consolidated breaks, wood worms attack, corrosion, etc.);

  • Carrying out tomography scans on books or sealed documents. The difference in density between the materials constituting the support (paper, papyrus…) and ink makes it possible to reconstitute the texts without removing the seal(s) affixed, nor risking to damage pages of old manuscripts, often fragile;

  • Radiographic acquisition of painted works on canvas for indication of repentance, retouching, or anterior restoration marks, or even for the realization of state diagnostics for preventive conservation… 

  • There is also a display of superimposed paintings by other artists. For example Picasso's "Woman with a Big Ear", where X-rays were used to discover that underneath there was a sketch of another famous painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon".

  • Wooden artworks or tools dating according to reliable data for dendrochronology; 

  • Analysis and condition report of ancient manufactured objects like stained-glass windows, potteries, ceramics, textiles, jewels, etc.

Discover here the example of a will dating back to 1531. Without having to break the original wax bucket or handle the document, researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL) used their Ultratom eto view and reconstruct the sealed will from the National Archives in Venice. They thus revealed the last wished of a Venetian lady, dating from 1531


A technology also adapted to the needs of Jewellery, and particularly to gemology

The professions of Jewellery are easily related to those of Art. The problematics are also very similar, which makes tomography and radiography so interesting for this field. It is indeed once again a question of rare, or unique pieces, with the need for non-destructive means of characterization, preserving the jewels, and/or gems. 

Tomography is an increasingly common mean of characterization, especially in gemology laboratories. It allows, through cross-sectional reconstructions of the volume of the pearl or gem studied, to have both information on their overall shape, but also on their internal composition, even if the sample is opaque.

With a resolution of up to 350nm, the micro and nano tomography devices  proposed by RX Solutions allow a visualization of the samples in the smallest details. Easy to use, no sample preparation is required. 

Some examples of radiography and tomography applications in gemology:

  • Visualization of the internal structures of pearls in order to search potential nucleus;

  • Authentication: Identification of cultured pearls, synthetic diamonds, …;

  • Origin of pearl growth, in freshwater or seawater

  • Search for inclusions, or impurities;

  • Digitation of gems for their identification. 

From reverse engineering to the inspection of watchmaking mechanisms. 

In the luxury sector, and particularly in the case of high-end watchmaking, the issues closely match those of art and jewelry. We're talking about rare, sometimes unique, often very expensive pieces, where 0 defects is the norm.

This is why computer tomography, using powerful X-ray tubes to penetrate dense materials, is increasingly used for a number of purposes:


  • Validating a progress point on a prototype

  • Inspect a strage in the manufacturing process

  • Inspecting the material health of a material

  • Analyzing porosity

  • Carrying out quality control of a product before it goes to market. 

Being able to non-destructively inspect the inside of watches worth several thousand euros is a guarantee of quality, ensuring that the product is quite simply perfect, before it is put on the market.



Watch clip

Watch spiral spring

Watch winder

Mechanical watch

Watch clip

Watch spiral spring

Watch winder

Mechanical watch


But if we can perform quality control, or take dimensional and three-dimensional measurements of products, it is also possible to take the process in the opposite direction and perform what's called reverse engineering.


This is what Swiss watchmaker OMEGA has done, for example.

To preserve the integrity of the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 worn by Eugene Cernan, astronaut on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, OMEGA opted for an innovative approach. Rather than risk damaging the case and its mechanics by opening it in the traditional way, OMEGA's teams used tomography to examine this historic timepiece in detail.

Using 3D reconstruction and detailed analysis of all the watch's cross-sections, the engineers were able to reproduce the watch's mechanism. While preserving its authenticity, this approach has also enabled the new model's production processes to be modernised. This use of tomography as part of reverse engineering resulted in the preservation and remastering of the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 phrase model, offering a unique experience to lovers of fine watchmaking and underlining OMEGA's technical ingenuity.


They also worked on 2 other of the brand's flagship models: 

  • Omega Railmaster which was designed for railway workers to avoid train delays. 

  • Omega Seamaster 300 which was James Bond's 007  watch



Tomography reverse engineering OMEGA watches

Whether it is to analyze and authenticate a precious stone, to study a work of art, a jewel, in their singularity, or to follow the cultural evolution of Man throughout the History, radiography and tomography have become essential tools. Whatever the application, the equipment offered by RX Solutions adapts to your pieces, as well as to your needs, while guaranteeing their integrity.