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Chasing decoration versus Repoussé



As an item was being described for the website today, it occurred that we sometimes use terms that may not be part of everyday communication. Today we were describing the decoration on a metal (?silver) tube, The decoration had been created by hammering the metal ground using something similar to a nail point punch, leaving the rest of the metal raised in very elegant, late Victorian/early art nouveau pattern of sinuous, organic scrolls. The effect was to have a raised, smooth, pattern against a textured ground, and as such chasing shows it is a very effective technique. There is however yin to this yang – an opposite way to create such an effect. If the design is pressed out from the back, to create the same type of raised pattern, the process is called repoussé . There are times where it can be hard to decide which particular technique has been used, but perhaps not so hard in this case. Had the whole metal ground been indented with the nail point effect it would have been difficult to make the raised pattern so smooth – not impossible but not likely even if the design was achieved by a mechanical press.

If we ever use terms that aren’t quite clear to the reader please feel free to seek clarification. We don’t intentionally seek to confound or confuse but sometime in our enthusiasm get carried away by the beauty or complexity of the piece we are listing. As the working week (if there is such a definition anymore) draws to a close here in New Zealand the springtime winds have arrived, not outlandishly strong, but often dropping the otherwise improving temperature by a couple of degrees or so. The garden is losing the first blush of spring colour with the daffodils etc. dying back but being replaced with the burgeoning buds of new growth in our trees and bushes. Enjoy your weekend and perhaps consider joining our growing website.

Kind regards,


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William McPhail
William McPhail
Oct 09, 2020

Yes Nicol you are quite right regarding the origin of the word. Your post has driven me to find out how to add the accent over the e of repousse but the recommended 'alt e' doesn't seem to work for me so I will keep looking.

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Unknown member
Oct 09, 2020

Something interesting to be mentioned, I think, it is that both words are of French origin. Repousse or repoussé it is mostly used in its sense of repel or postpone rather than referring to a metalworking procedure. In English it was first used in the mid-nineteenth century related to metal working indeed, The first known use of chase with this meaning was in 15th century and dictionaries mention its Anglo-French origin.

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