Friday, March 9, 2012

Decoration techniques on antique silver

The type of decoration on a piece of silver can provide a good indication of its date, as styles varied in different periods. Pay special attention to the condition of the decoration as well as the overall condition of the piece as both have  a bearing on value. The main types of decoration are listed below:


This is a technique of decorating surface of the silver from the front, removing the metal by incising lines, patterns and portraits. As far back as the 3rd millennium BC it was done with flint, bronze and copper tools. Today, it is achieved by hand with a sharply pointed steel tool held on an engraver's block, or by machine.

Bright cutting

Another form of engraving where the metal is cut in small gouges at an angle and removed by a tool with two cutting points ao that the work is accomplished in narrow channels with slanting sides to give a faceted, bright appearance. The best bright cutting in England was done between 1770-90.


A way of decorating the front surface by intending it and raising the design without cutting into the metal or removing part of it. The work is done with tools known as tracers and a chasing hammer. When the same technique is used to create a pattern but without raising the surface of the metal, the method is referred to as flat chasing.

Cut-card work

Introduced in Europe in the second half of the 17th century, thin sheets of silver were cut into a decorative patterns, often based on leaf shapes, and soldered onto the main body of the piece, as an integral part of its decoration. It was often used to embellish the bases of bowls or cups or around the handle sockets of tea or coffee pots.


A method to openwork made by piercing the metal to make a pattern of small holes, it was used for purely decorative effect. Until the second half of the 18th century, it was done by hammers and a selection of small chisels, but after this date, the piercing saw frame was developed which enabled the silversmith to make a series of tiny, vertical and precise cuts. this type of work if most often seen on strainers, covers of casters, mustard pots, fish slices, wine coasters and baskets.

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