Repousse on vintage silver, take two

Pin It
Sterling Silver Art Nouveau Whiskey Flask

Sterling Silver Art Nouveau Whiskey Flask. I call the lady on the flask Salacia, she was Neptune's wife.

Last week the comments made clear that my choice of photographs to illustrate repousse caused more confusion than clarity.  Let’s try again  🙂 as Notes & Observations is intended to help – not bewilder – you!


To recap, repousse is the technique in which a pattern or other decorative motif (such as the nude on the whiskey flask) is literally pushed into the silver from behind.  Commonly it’s used as a repeating design on a border or rim.  It can be anything…from Salacia on the right to the roses on the fork shown below.

There will be a test at some point, so remember!

It’s quite possible that it will be in the form of a pop quiz.  Imagine there you are on holiday taking in the local scene and suddenly you’re standing in someone’s antique shop thinking “Damn, what was that Notes and Observations post saying?”

Here we have our Repousse silver –  swirly, girly, gloriously rose strewn fork

Vintgage Silver Old English by Towle

Vintage Silver Fork - note the repousse roses.

Vintage silver repousse fork

On the reverse side, you can see exactly how the roses have been pressed through. In some ways the back is as decorative as the front.

Another example is this fantastic vintage silver serving piece from Alvin.  It’s the Orient pattern, c.1910.

On the scoop, see the scroll pattern as it flows off the handle?

Vintage silver scoop - Orient by Alvin

Convex on the front.

Vintage silver - Alvin scoop

Same piece, now instead of seeing convex areas that define the pattern we are seeing the concave side.

Hopefully this has cleared up any lingering confusion.

Now you can speak confidently about repousse work.

A few extra tidbits. Repousse silver was brought to America by Samuel Kirk in the 1820’s. He had been to Europe and seen the technique there. Once home again – in Baltimore – he set a new standard for American silver.  By the way, repousse and Kirk are so strongly associated with Baltimore that there is an actual term – Baltimore silver.

Also, in the pieces that is have shown above, do you see how crisp both sides are. Everything is executed with precision and confidence. Every so often one runs across a…for the lack of a better word…muddy piece of repousse. It’s not a function of time and use having worn down the pattern, it’s that the pattern wasn’t done well in the first place.

Remember, you might find yourself taking a pop quiz at any moment as you stand contemplating a piece. 🙂 Especially all you lucky folks who will be at Round Top and Brimfield!  I hope this helps.


As always, I thrive on your comments! Do you have a favorite piece of repousse? Do you like it as an accent or all over??

Please share this post – help spread the word that silver is for more than special occasions. Thanks!

Pin It

4 thoughts on “Repousse on vintage silver, take two

  1. IvetteNo Gravatar

    Very interesting. Do you happen to have an example of a “muddy” repousse for comparison? I can certainly see the clarity in the ones above. Those pieces are beautiful. Heh heh, being a girly girl, I really like repousse!

  2. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

    Hi Ivette –

    I need to dig through my photo archives and see if I can find one! I knew someone would ask 🙂 Glad you liked the examples.

  3. flibbertygibbetNo Gravatar

    Yeah, Baltimore! My hometown. I remember walking home from grade school and stopping in the local department store, Stewart’s. They had a Samuel Kirk and Son department right in their store. I visited every day – it was my after school treat!

  4. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

    Hi Flib –

    Did you know that from about 1815-1840 or so, Baltimore had it’s own Assay Office and it’s own official “standard of fineness”. Can’t remember what it was off-hand but was something unusual like .916.

Comments are closed.