Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion?

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Detail of a silver tray featuring the design of a frog seated at the edge of a grassy pond with a queue of mosquitos approaching from a setting sun on the horizon. The surface has a hexagonal-shaped texture. The grass and mosquitoes protrude in a low relief on the tray surface. The front is more heavily sculpted and plated with mixed metals that are silver, gold, and copper in tone.

An Introduction to Metalworking at Tiffany & Co.

How did Tiffany & Co. become an innovator of metalworking techniques in the nineteenth century?
A pair of black iron candlesticks with a tapered conical base appear side-by-side. They are adorned with various sinuous floral motives that are modeled in low relief on the surface and surfaced in a variety of silver-, gold-, and copper-toned metals.


To produce a design or pattern by inlaying a softer metal into a harder one — often gold, silver, or copper into a darkened steel background.
A pair of dazzling gilded and enameled cups and saucers adorned with floral designs, a coat of arms, and monogram.

Electrolytic Etching

A process that eats into designated areas of a material's surface through the application of acids or an electrical current.
A silver, blue, and maroon cylindrical cup with a handle rests on a matching saucer. The cup and saucer are reflective and adorned with an inlay design of a checkerboard pattern of wavy triangle shapes.

Electrolytic Inlay

A decorative technique that uses an electric current to deposit metal particles from an electrolytic solution into designated recesses on a metal object.
A short but elongated silver teapot with an ivory lid finial adorned with abstract floral motifs rendered in maroon, orange, taupe, and turquoise enamel.

Champlevé Enameling

A decorative technique that fuses a powdered glassy material into a recess in a metal surface through the application of heat.
A three-quarter view of a patinated copper and silver chocolate pot in the shape of a pitcher with a handle, spot, and ivory handle. Silver banding emphasizes the handle, spout, and rim of the lid and neck. A lobster rendered in high-relief silver adorns the body of the pot.

Patinating Copper

A process by which chemicals are used to purposefully induce the formation of a thin colored layer on the surface of metal, referred to as chemical patination.
A flat cigarette case and a tall match case in a matching wood grain pattern rendered in deep red, black, brown, and gold metals.


An ancient Japanese metalworking technique, translated to mean wood eye or wood grain, by which layers of contrasting colored metals are fused together with heat and pressure and worked to produce a patterned mixed-metal laminate.

Credits and acknowledgments

Medill Higgins Harvey, Ruth Bigelow Wriston Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts and Manager, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, The American Wing

Moira Gallagher, Former Research Associate for American Decorative Arts, The American Wing

Anne Grady, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Enormous thanks to Wendy Yothers, Artisan, Society of American Silversmiths and Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Thomas S. Madden, Professor of Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design at the College for Creative Studies; and Tomoyuki Chie Teratani, Assistant Professor of Jewelry Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology for demonstrating these techniques. You can find full videos of their demonstrations at the end of each article.