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Precious Metal Manufacture, Techniques, and Styles

Finishes and Decorative Techniques | Definitions and Pictures

Precious metals are incredibly versatile and can be finished and decorated in a variety of ways. Whether gold, silver, or platinum, precious metals are used to create intricate and beautiful looks.

 

bark finish

 

Bark Finishing: Bark finishing creates a surface texture resembling tree bark.

 

 

braiding

 

Braiding: Braiding is made by twisting wires and soldering them onto a jewelry piece. 

 

 

brushed finish

 

Brushed Finish: A brushed finish refers to the tiny parallel lines scratched onto the surface with a wire brush, creating a soft diffused shine on the precious metal.

 

chased

 

Chasing: Chasing is a technique where a relief design is depressed into a precious metal object from the front.

 

 

chiseling

 

Chiseling: Chiseling is similar to chasing, but small amounts of the precious metal are removed.

 

Diamond cut

 

Diamond Cut: Diamond cuts are created with a diamond tipped tool. The angled facets reflect light, but if they are not finished well, they can snag on clothing.

 

embossed cuff

 

Embossing: Embossing refers to a raised design created by pushing metal out from the backside of an object.

 

enamel

 

Enamel: Enameling is the fusion of colored glass onto precious metal. Different kinds of enameling include basse-taille, champlevé, cloisonné, plique-à-jour, and sgrafitto.

 

Plique à jour enamel

 

Plique-à-jour enameling: Plique-à-jour enamel is an enameling technique that lets light filter through the glass partitions.

 

engraving

 

Engraving: Engraving is the process of etching lines into a precious metal. Today, most engraving is done by machine.

 

 

etched metal

 

Etching: Etching is a process that uses acids to create a design on metal.

 

 

filigree pin

 

Filigree: Filigree is the use of fine wires to create a lacy design.

 

 

Florentine finish

 

Florentine finish: A Florentine finish differs from a brushed finish because the cross-hatching, which is created with an engraving tool, is coarser.

 

gold gilt cherub

 

Gilding: Gilding is the application of gold leaf to a surface.

 

 

granulation

 

Granulation: Granulation is an ancient technique where tiny metal balls are fused to a metal base without solder.

 

 

guilloche

 

Guilloche: Guilloche is a surface treatment that makes waves and striations in a design. It can be done by machine or by hand.

 

high polished ring

 

High polish: The term “high polish” refers to a bright, smooth, mirror-like finish.

 

 

matte finish ring

 

Matte finish: A matte finish has a softer, more diffuse, lustrous shine.

 

 

Milgrain edge

 

Milgrain: Milgrain is a beaded pattern made by hand or machine that is often used as an ornamental border.

 

 

mokume gane

 

Mokume-gane: Mokume-gane is an ancient Japanese process of layering, bending, and flattening different colored metals into patterns that look like wood grain. Image from Krikawa.com.

 

oxidized silver brooch

 

Oxidized silver: Oxidizing will darken or color a metal, such as the silver in this brooch. An oxygen flame can make low-karat gold alloys look like they are antique.

 

pebbled texture

 

Pebbled texture: A pebbled texture is popular with high karat yellow gold pieces such as these hoop earrings.

 

old english silver plated teapot

 

Plating: A general term for surface covering techniques where a metal is applied to a surface.

 

 

repousse pocket watch

 

Repoussé: A decorative technique achieved punching a design from the back of an object and finishing it from the front with chasing.

 

reticulation

 

Reticulation: Reticulation is a design effect achieved by subjecting the surface of a piece of metal to controlled melting. While the surface will develop ridges and valleys, the underlying metal will not be harmed.

 

bracelet and ring with rolled texture

 

Rolled texture: Roller printing is an embossed image or texture created when a “sandwich” of two sheets of metal and a texturing material is passed through a rolling mill under pressure.

 

sandblasted

 

Sandblasted: A sandblasted finish is a matte finish made by blasting metal with sand. It is coarser than a glass-beaded finish.

 

satin finish ring

 

Satin finish: A satin finish is a finely brushed, lustrous surface texture.

 

 

shakudo

Shakudo: Shakudo is billion, a precious metal alloy primarily comprised of a base metal, which has been patinaed to achieve dark purple and blue-black tones in the metal. Although first used by the Han Dynasty in China, the technique was later adopted in Japan. The billion alloy typically contains four percent fine gold and a copper base.

 

Shibuichi BB dragonfly button

 

Shibuichi: Shibuichi is billion, a precious metal alloy primarily comprised of a base metal, which has been patinaed to achieve a range of colors including subtle shades of gray, green, and blue.  The standard formulation is approximately one part silver and four parts copper.

 

stamping Denarius Sextus coin

 

Stamping: The term stamping refers to the process of impressing shapes, patterns, or textures onto precious metal with punches.

 

 

stippled texture

 

Stippling: Stippling is dotted or indented pattern created by a small pointed tool on the surface of precious metal.

 

 

In the next section, you will learn how some of these finishes and techniques became signature styles with Precious Metal Styles and Designers | A Guide to Prominent Influences.

 

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