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A History of Niello

The technique of Niello evolved gradually from around 1500 BC. In essence Niello involves etching a design into a metallic object and then filling the grooves created with a metallic alloy. When heated, cooled and then polished the engraved lines should be filled with the alloy and stand out prominently against the rest of the object. A technique of this kind was certainly in use by 1500 BC in Bronze Age Egypt and the Levant, but there is debate as to whether the objects so created at this time should be considered Niello, as the metal alloy employed probably differed from that used in more modern, traditional Niello objects. 

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The Technique of Piqué

Piqué work was a decorative art form which was largely developed and practiced during a relatively confined period of time in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In essence it involves the creation of inlaid designs on a tortoiseshell, wherein gold or silver pins are pressed into the shell to create an ornate pattern. This had become a relatively common way of decorating fashioned tortoiseshells during the seventeenth century in Europe, particularly in France, to create ornate combs, snuffboxes and other small ornamental pieces for use by the monarchy and nobility.

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