As promised last week I’m answering Elizabeth’s two-part question in reverse order. Today let’s take a quick look at die stamping silver.
To remind you, Elizabeth’s question was about repoussé generally, however she also specifically asked, “for a hollow handle dinner knife or holloware or the bowl of the serving piece, you can seen the how the repoussé was done in that from the back or inside you see the reverse relief; but, are the standard dinner forks and teaspoons really created via repousse or are they cast and just look like repoussé details?”
I believe these photos illustrate your question nicely.
Perhaps some of the confusion comes from Kirk’s pattern name Repoussé (with a capital R) vs. the technique repoussé. While some pieces in the pattern are made using the technique, as you correctly point out, some of the flatware pieces don’t seem to be. There are many other patterns out there that emulate Kirk’s flagship pattern and I think it fair to say the same issue aplies to them as well.
We know that numerous techniques (including chased silver and repoussé) create a pattern of high and low relief on silver pieces. However, when you turn them over they lack the crucial pushed-in-from-behind characteristic of repoussé as the back is solid and/or smooth, as in the top set of photos. In these cases, another possible technique to create the repoussé-style front is die stamping silver.
Die Stamping Silver
Turning back to Newman’s Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware, die stamping silver is:
“The process of stamping silver by the use of a die that forms the design on a sheet of the metal forcibly pressed between it and another surface. The die is made by skilled artisans called ‘die sinkers’ and can be made with detailed patterns requiring great expertise; it can be used repeatedly for mass production. The process is sometimes used for stamping and cutting out complete objects (such as spoons and forks) or some mounts.”
As I was cruising around the net looking thinking about this piece on die stamping I came across this great video showing Italian silversmith David Bigazzi creating a piece with repousee and chasing. It is well worth watching. What a shame I didn’t find it last week!!