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A build-up of matter which lies on, rather than being embedded in, a surface.

Related Terms[edit | edit source]

efflorescence; encrustation; fly specks; incrustation

Synonyms in English[edit | edit source]

deposit; incrust, encrust, incrustration, concretion

Translation[edit | edit source]

English accretion
French accrétion
Spanish acreción
Portuguese acreção
Italian accrescimento
German akkretion
Dutch aangroeisel
Chinese (Traditional) 附著物
Image of accretions to clay pottery

Discussion[edit | edit source]

A growth or accumulation of new material on the exterior surface of an object. Accretions may be unintentional (dirt, salts, corrosion, insect deposits, guano, drips, burial deposits) or intentional (expansion, alteration) additions that change the appearance of the object.

Conservators may choose to leave accretions on an object for the additional details it may provide about an objects use, importance or history. In some instances conservators decide to leave accretions on a work for its pleasing color and appearance, or the additional protection to the underlying material from further damage.


Laser cleaning is one of the newest technologies utilized in the removal of surface accretions and can be performed to burn or blast away any undesirable material. Infrared laser is often used when dealing with dark surface buildup on light colored stone or rocks such as marble or limestone, due to the materials reflective nature.

References[edit | edit source]

Anon. 2000. “Accretion.” Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Trust.

———. 2012. “Accretion.” CAMEO:Conservation and Art Material Encyclopedia Online. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Cato, Paisley S., Julia Golden, and Suzanne B. McLaren. 2003. Museumwise: Workplace Words Defined. Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Jewett, D. 1983. A glossary for recording the condition of an artifact. Ottawa : Canadian Heritage Information Network, National Museums of Canada.

Krueger, Holly, Kitty Nicholson, and Sarah Melching. 1994. “Written Documentation.” In Paper Conservation Catalog. 9th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

MFA Publications. 2011. Conservation and Care of Museum Collections. Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

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