Damascene

Damascene is a technique for surface decoration that involves the inlaying of gold or silver wire or foil into grooves cut into the surface of metal, usually bronze, iron or steel.  The result is similar to Niello and also is reminiscent of Pique work.  Real Damascene work is made with 18k or 24k gold; ‘faux-Damascene’ is not usually made with real gold or silver and is mass produced. (Damascene work also has a variety of other applications besides jewelry which I am not going into here.)

European and Middle Eastern Damascene Work

European Damascene work originated in Damascus, Syria and was taken to Spain by the Moors. The name ‘Damascene’ came about because the English were reminded of the tapestry patterns of Damask silk. Toledo, Spain has been the center for this kind of work in Europe since the Middle Ages.   Toledo Damascene work is also known as ‘Toledo work’ or ‘Damasquinado de Oro’ or ‘Damasquino’.  Toledo work is usually made with a steel base and gold foil worked into the engraved cuts. A bluing compound is then used to darken the background and gold plating is done on the other surfaces. The back of Toledo Damascene jewelry pieces are finished in gold metal.  Mycenae, Greece is also a center for Damascene work as well as of course Damascus itself.

Toledo Damascene generally has one of two traditional and distinct types of motifs; the Arabesque or geometric designs, and the Renaissance motifs, displaying variations of birds and flowers.

Renaissance Motifs in Toledo Damascene Work

Typical Damascene Toledo Work.

Arabesque Motifs in Toledo Damascene Work

Damascene Arabesque Keychain Gold
Typical Damascene Arabesque Motif

Zougan

Damascene type techniques are also done in Asia, particularly in Japan where is is known as Zougan or Shakudo.  Zougan work in Japan is particularly found in Kyoto where it a traditional craft and has its origins in sword-making. This kind of Japanese Zougan work appears to have originated in China and developed independently from European Damascene work.  As Japanese motifs are popular in European jewelry evaluating the origin of a piece of Damascene is not always straight forward and other factors must be considered besides the motif.  Asian Damascene work can be extraordinarily fine. Hair-ornaments are one popular application for this kind of work.

Tsuba, Kyoto, late Edo period

Sources / further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascening

 

Nunome-Zogan – a blink into traditional Japan

http://www.damascenejewelry.net/content/4-about-damascene-jewelry

Appliqué

Appliqué in jewelry is when decorative pieces of one material are attached onto the main piece.  This can also simply be referred to as ‘applied decoration’.  Normally, this technique is used with metal, but other materials such as hardstone may also be appliquéd.  This was a particularly popular technique throughout the Victorian era and also in Arts & Crafts Movement  jewelry.  Here are some examples below.

Brooch

England, c.1903
Brooch, gilded silver, gold, enamel and turquoises
Ashbee
V&A Museum

Brooch

England, c. 1916-1917
Brooch, silver, engraved with applied decoration
V&A Museum

Brooch

London, c. 1855-73
Brooch, gold enamel, pearls and hair.
V&A Museum

Brooch

England, c. 1880
Brooch, stamped and applied gold.
V&A Museum

In the late 1800s (after 1870 but before 1895) small amounts of platinum were often used as appliqué on gold.

File:Platinum appliqué.jpg

Platinum Appliqué
Lang Antiques

 

Filigree

Brooch

England, c. 1820-1830
Brooch, gold filigree, set with a large citrine and small emeralds and rubies
V&A Museum

Filigree (also spelled filagree) can be defined as a kind of jewelry metalwork involving fine wires which are soldered together into an artistic design.  Filigree wires can be arranged, twisted or braided and then soldered onto a metal backing or can be soldered onto an open backed frame. One way of describing filigree is ‘delicate tracery’. Although related to cannetille, filigree is primarily flat work whereas cannetille is three dimensional.  Of course, the two techniques are often combined.  Filigree can also be combined with granulation.  Some sources describe cannetille as being a type of filigree and some describe it as being something separate. Filigree is also related to ajoure jewelry work, but ajoure differs as it involves drilling holes in sheet metal, whereas filigree work is entirely soldered or possibly twisted together with no solder (as is the case with Berlin Iron jewelry).

Filigree work was especially popular in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian jewelry from 1660 until the late 19th century.  I have also seen a lot of Art Deco era pieces involving filigree.  I believe it has been popular consistently throughout each era but is particularly associated with traditional and folk jewelry.  There have also always been cast pieces which resemble genuine filigree work; these are not as delicate or fine and can be differentiated upon close inspection.  It is important when evaluating filigree work that you look for broken wires.  Unfortunately, filigree work is very delicate and many surviving early pieces are damaged.

Brooch

Germany, c. 1750-1850
Brooch, silver, filigree.
V&A Museum

Pendant

Portugal, c. 1860
Pendant, gold filigree
V&A Museum

Pendant

Spain (Salamanca), c. 1800 – 1870
Pendant with gold filigree set with pearls
V&A Museum

Necklace

Austria, 1840-1870
Necklace with silver chains, silver filigree, garnets and imitation pearl
V&A Museum

Bracelet

England, c. 1860-1870
Pasquale Novissimo (possible maker)
Gold filigree and granulation bracelet
V&A Museum

Buttons

Spain, c. 1870
Silver filigree buttons
V&A Museum

Pendant

Naples, c. 1830-1860
Pendant, red and yellow gold and filigree, with a blue enamel plaque
V&A Museum

Earrings

Italy, c. 1820-1860
Earrings, red and yellow gold, filigree, pearls and seed pearls
V&A Museum

Earrings

Western Europe, c.1825
Earrings, enamelled gold filigree set with small stones
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filigree

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Filigree

Repoussé and chasing

Clasp - Clasp

Cyprus c. 1750-1850
Clasps, repousse and cast silver, partly gilded, with black and green filigree enamel and red and green pastes
V&A Museum

Repoussé or repoussage is an ancient metalworking technique in which a metal is shaped by hammering or punching from the reverse side to create a low relief design.  The word repoussé is derived from the French pousser, ‘to push forward.’

Chasing is the opposite of repoussé, meaning the metal is hammered or stamped from the front, creating an indent.  ‘Chasing’ can also be called ’embossing’. Both chasing and repoussé are usually done onto sheet metal.

Both techniques can also simply be called stamped when hand or machine stamps have been used to indent or push out the metal.

Brooch

England. c. 1903
Charles Ashbee.
Gilded silver, repoussé gold, enamel and turquoises

Both techniques are found in jewelry throughout every era.  Whilst they have both traditionally been done by hand, machines to produce raised or sunken designs on sheet metal were created in the mid 1900s using roller dies or stamps.  Also, cast pieces can have the same effect as hand-worked originals. It is worthwhile being able to recognize repoussé and chasing work in antique jewelry in order to better evaluate and discuss it. It is also worthwhile recognizing when the work is hand-done work, cast or machine made; this really just comes with having a practiced eye and handling enough pieces. Also, keep in mind that metal working techniques are combined together.  In future posts, I will discuss other metal working techniques used in antique and period jewelry.

A PAIR OF RARE EARLY 19TH CENTURY CITRINE AND TURQUOISE EAR PENDANTS

A PAIR OF RARE EARLY 19TH CENTURY CITRINE AND TURQUOISE EAR PENDANTS
Each composed of an oval mixed-cut citrine top with repoussé scroll surround and turquoise cabochon point accents, suspending three similarly designed interlinked drops with tassel detailing, to a sphere terminal, circa 1830
Christie’s 5968

Silver Victorian Repoussé locket

Brooch

England, c. 1880
Brooch, enamelled, chased and matted gold
V&A Museum

Tiara

England, c. 1835
Gold and chrysoprase tiara.
This tiara was created by pressing the gold into the required shape using a steel die stamping machine.

Bracelet

England, c. 1860
Gold bracelet with a steatite cylinder seal
Repousse work

Button

Iceland. c. 1700-1850
Button, repoussé silver, gilded
V&A Museum

Brooch

England, c. 1883
Stamped Silver Brooch
V&A Museum

Button

Netherlands, 1787
Button, stamped silver
V&A Museum

Brooch

Paris c. 1844
Cast Silver (the original model would have been created with repousse and chasing work)
V&A Museum

Sources / Further Reading:

http://brentberryarts.com/repousse/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repouss%C3%A9_and_chasing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embossing_%28manufacturing%29

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/498439/repousse

http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/arts/decoart/handcraft/metalwork/repousse/repousse.htm

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Repouss%C3%A9