Arts and Crafts Repousse Brooch

January 5th, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Arts and Crafts Repousse Brooch of 14K gold, natural pearls, and black onyx.

This unusual antique Arts and Crafts gold brooch is now on display at Mardon Jewelers. Made circa 1900 or so, the piece shows the classic handcrafted elements of the Art and Crafts movement.

The craftsman began by drawing the design on paper, then either glued the design onto a sheet of 14K yellow gold or drew the design directly on the gold with india ink. The gold was then pierced with a jeweler’s saw to create the openings in the design and trimmed to the design outline.

The pierced sheet was then placed on a heavy pitch bowl. In the repousse method, the pitch in warmed just enough so that the work can be embedded firmly. The pitch is slightly pliable and supports the work while it’s being shaped with steel punches. The hemispheric shape of the bowl allows the work to move easily to follow the craftsman’s tools.

Pitch bowl, base, steel punches and chasing hammer. Photo courtesy Creatstudio.Co.UK

First, the piece was worked on the reverse side using steel punches and hammer to develop raised reliefs and the lovely three dimensional shape.

Warming the pitch again allowed the work to be turned over so the front could be tooled. The details of the front including the grape leaves and the over/under elements were hammered into the gold using various punches. The punch marks made a distinctive texture that enhances the hand wrought look. The finished gold item was bathed in chemicals several times to develop a bloomed gold surface. Bloomed gold is explained on this Mardon blog post,

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