By Sebastian Bianchi
A helpful tool to help determine the authenticity of a paper or cloth item from the Third Reich era is the "black light test". Generally speaking, original ribbon or paper items made during the Third Reich may be distinguished from those made since by the fact they will not fluoresce under a black light. While Paper items made prior to 1945 will not "glow", those made since the early 50's generally do fluoresce due to the amounts of chemical bleaches and dyes utilized. Similarly, cloth items that contain synthetic fibers or florescent dies will also incandesce under black light and these types of materials were not generally used during World War II.
There are some collectors who argue against the black light test based on the fact that fluorescent dies were in existence prior to the era. Although that detail is irrefutable, the fact that they were present does not mean that they were widely employed. In my experience original period items do not fluoresce under black light. Still, a word of caution should be put forth - because an item fluoresces it does not automatically mean that it is a reproduction. Be aware that the test can generate "false positives" as items that were washed with modern detergents may be "contaminated" and fluoresce under the black light. Likewise, one should not assume based solely on the fact that an item does not glow that it is a period item. The "black light test" is a tool that should be used in conjunction with others to determine authenticity. Having said that, please allow me to reiterate that in general, an item from the Third Reich era should not fluoresce under uv light and one that does should be very carefully examined.
Below is an example of what one should expect from the black light. The two ribbons on the right are originals and reflect some light, but the one on the left is a modern reproduction and fluoresces under black light.
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