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 Finishing: Bark finishing creates a surface texture resembling tree bark.
Braiding: Braiding is made by twisting wires and soldering them onto a jewelry piece.
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.
Chasing: Chasing is a technique where a relief design is depressed into a precious metal object from the front.
Chiseling: Chiseling is similar to chasing, but small amounts of the precious metal are removed.
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.
Embossing: Embossing refers to a raised design created by pushing metal out from the backside of an object.
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 enameling: Plique-à-jour enamel is an enameling technique that lets light filter through the glass partitions.
Engraving: Engraving is the process of etching lines into a precious metal. Today, most engraving is done by machine.
Etching: Etching is a process that uses acids to create a design on metal.
Filigree: Filigree is the use of fine wires to create a lacy design.
Florentine finish: A Florentine finish differs from a brushed finish because the cross-hatching, which is created with an engraving tool, is coarser.
Gilding: Gilding is the application of gold leaf to a surface.
Granulation: Granulation is an ancient technique where tiny metal balls are fused to a metal base without solder.
Guilloche: Guilloche is a surface treatment that makes waves and striations in a design. It can be done by machine or by hand.
High polish: The term “high polish” refers to a bright, smooth, mirror-like finish.
Matte finish: A matte finish has a softer, more diffuse, lustrous shine.
Milgrain: Milgrain is a beaded pattern made by hand or machine that is often used as an ornamental border.
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: 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: A pebbled texture is popular with high karat yellow gold pieces such as these hoop earrings.
Plating: A general term for surface covering techniques where a metal is applied to a surface.
Repoussé: A decorative technique achieved punching a design from the back of an object and finishing it from the front with chasing.
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.
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: A sandblasted finish is a matte finish made by blasting metal with sand. It is coarser than a glass-beaded finish.
Satin finish: A satin finish is a finely brushed, lustrous surface texture.
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: 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: The term stamping refers to the process of impressing shapes, patterns, or textures onto precious metal with punches.
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.