Are you a victim of silver lingo syndrome?

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After Monday’s post considering monograms and typography I’ve been thinking further about decorative techniques on antique and vintage silver. More specifically, about the use of terminology describing decorative techniques.

Silver Lingo Syndrome!

I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. When you deal with silver (or anything) every day you naturally fall into the habit of referring things that way. But unlike a career with, say, the CIA where keeping the circle of people who know the lingo smaller is better, I want you to actually know what I’m talking about and buy something.

When I step back and consider, I realize I’ve been a little casual.

It’s really annoying when you are put in a situation when the lingo is flying around and you just don’t want to look silly by asking.  Yes, I know you shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask.  But let’s face it, no one like to look ignorant – especially when buying expensive items.

For an item to stand out in an online listing it needs to be really descriptive, you have to see it, feel it, imagine enjoying it. Pictures are worth those 1000 words, but what if you unintentionally create a disconnect between the two.

Like any specialty, silver is rich and rife with technical and artistic terminology. It is so rich and rife that this post is going to be one of a series – consider this post Silver Lingo 101.

Do you know what a gadroon edge is?

Oops. Sorry. Let’s start to fix that.

Decorative elements generally fall into these categories:

  1. Engraved – literally carved into the  silver
  2. Repousse – when a decorative pattern has been  raised from the silver by being pushed out from behind
  3. Applied – when a decorative element has been  made separately and then applied to the main body of the piece

Right all of that is wonderfully academic.

Here are some real examples (with photos) of specific decorative terminology. They are in no particular order, some photos will illustrate more than one technique, and this is not an exhaustive list.  As I said above, it’s part of a new series.

vintage silver basket

Gadroon edging and pierce work.

This photo shows a rope-like and twisting border on the very edge of the rim. This is gadroon, a very popular technique. Especially on hollowware, platters, compotes, and trays.

The lattice design is pierce work, literally piercings in the silver. Sometimes in a repeating design like this, other times a simple cut-out.

sterling silver repousse art nouveau

Not the normal use of repousse, but a good one!

As you’ll remember from above repousse means pushed out from behind. Usually, it is in the form of a repetitive design, often on a border or a rim. This is a stunning example of repousse used in art nouveau.

It is a nude reclining on the waves adorning a whiskey flask, gorgeous!

sterling silver jigger rolled lip

Simple rolled lip.

Here is an example of a rolled lip. Simple, classic, elegant.

sterling silver bowl with reeding and beaded edge

Reeding and a beaded edge.

Last, but not least for today is an example of reeding – the vertical, column type elements. Reeding often seen on tea sets. On the very edge of this piece is beading – literally a row of beads. On this piece the beads are quite large, the can vary in size and be very small. In addition, the beads are not always the same size, they can graduate in size as they move along a piece.

That’s all for today, but this series will continue.


Thanks for reading. Is there a term you have always been confused by? Leave me a comment, test my knowledge!

And, if you like what you see, I’d really appreciate a tweet.

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5 thoughts on “Are you a victim of silver lingo syndrome?

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Flib –

      Ahhh, excellent call on my leaving out the obvious!! Yes, beaded edges are applied and yes, gadroon and reeding do involve repousse like pushing. Generally though when people think of repousse it is the very intricate work. The type of things that Samuel Kirk was so famous for. I probably should have picked a more common example for repousse, but she is just so lovely…

  1. IvetteNo Gravatar

    Very interesting! I’m looking forward to more installments. I learned alot just from this first one!

    I really love beading…..

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Ivette –

      Glad you like the info. Are there any terms you’ve ever wondered about? I’m always looking for suggestions. The ones today are simply the first that popped into my head, but I’d love to know what pops into your head!

      As for the reeding on the bowl, I guess it depends on what you consider the front or back of the silver.

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