Repoussé and chasing

Cyprus c. 1750-1850 Clasps, repousse and cast silver, partly gilded, with black and green filigree enamel and red and green pastes V&A Museum

Cyprus c. 1750-1850
Clasps, repousse and cast silver, partly gilded, with black and green filigree enamel and red and green pastes
V&A Museum

Repoussé or repoussage is an ancient metalworking technique in which a metal is shaped by hammering or punching from the reverse side to create a low relief design.  The word repoussé is derived from the French pousser, ‘to push forward.’

Chasing is the opposite of repoussé, meaning the metal is hammered or stamped from the front, creating an indent.  ‘Chasing’ can also be called ’embossing’. Both chasing and repoussé are usually done onto sheet metal.

Both techniques can also simply be called stamped when hand or machine stamps have been used to indent or push out the metal.

England. c. 1903 Charles Ashbee. Gilded silver, repoussé gold, enamel and turquoises  

England. c. 1903
Charles Ashbee.
Gilded silver, repoussé gold, enamel and turquoises

 

Both techniques are found in jewelry throughout every era.  Whilst they have both traditionally been done by hand, machines to produce raised or sunken designs on sheet metal were created in the mid 1900s using roller dies or stamps.  Also, cast pieces can have the same effect as hand-worked originals. It is worthwhile being able to recognize repoussé and chasing work in antique jewelry in order to better evaluate and discuss it. It is also worthwhile recognizing when the work is hand-done work, cast or machine made; this really just comes with having a practiced eye and handling enough pieces. Also, keep in mind that metal working techniques are combined together.  

England, c. 1860 Gold bracelet with a steatite cylinder seal Repousse work

England, c. 1860
Gold bracelet with a steatite cylinder seal
Repousse work

Netherlands, 1787 Button, stamped silver V&A Museum

Netherlands, 1787
Button, stamped silver
V&A Museum

Sources / Further Reading:

http://brentberryarts.com/repousse/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repouss%C3%A9_and_chasing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embossing_%28manufacturing%29

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/498439/repousse

http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/arts/decoart/handcraft/metalwork/repousse/repousse.htm

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Repouss%C3%A9

 

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