antique silver decoration techniques

One of the great attractions of antique silver is the elaborate and elegant decoration by silversmiths.

Most of the decorations on industrial products today are made by machines, but most of the decorations in those days were done by hand using tools such as chisels and hammers.

Here is a summary of the decorating techniques and methods used to decorate antique silver.

Typical decoration technique

1. engraving


It is a method of scraping off the surface of silver and adding fine patterns.
This is a representative decoration technique that has been widely used in European silverware since the Middle Ages.
There are deep carving (relief) types and shallow and delicate types.
Since the surface is scraped off, the decoration is not visible on the back, unlike hammered out.

2. Launch (Chasing/Reposer)


It is a decorative technique that creates a three-dimensional pattern by hitting the surface with a hammer to make depressions on the surface.
Unlike engraving, the silver is not scraped, and the decoration is visible on the back side.
The technique of striking from the front and sinking is called " chasing ", and the technique of striking from the back and pushing out is called " reposé ".
Combining these two techniques creates a variety of three-dimensional decorations.

3. Openwork (piercing)


This is a technique in which a hole is made in a silver product and a decorative pattern is applied.
At first, a hammer and chisel were used to make holes, but from around the late 18th century, it became possible to use a jigsaw for very delicate processing.
It is a technique often seen in baskets and bowls.

Other decorative techniques

4. bright cut

bright cut

It is a type of engraving and is a decorative technique often seen in England around the 18th and 19th centuries.
By cutting the groove diagonally with a sharp blade, you can see it shining every time you change the angle.

5. Niello (black gold inlay)


It is a technique of pouring hot black alloy into carved silver and polishing and inlaying it.
It is a technique traditionally used in Russia and the Middle East, but it is also occasionally seen in Europe.
The combination of silver and black can create a beautiful and unique expression.

6. filigree


It is a very delicate technique in which a pattern is created by winding silver that has been processed as thin as a thread.
This technique is often used for jewelry, but it is also used as an accent for cutlery.


Here, we have only introduced the representative ones, but there are many more detailed techniques, and they are combined to create decorations.

Most of them are hand-made by craftsmen, and the decorations, which have been made with a mind-boggling amount of time and skill, still fascinate us even after more than 100 years.

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