Niello is a black metallic compound that has been used for centuries as an inlay technique in metalwork, particularly on silver. It is typically made from a mixture of sulfur, copper, silver, and lead, which is ground into a fine powder or mixed into a paste. The niello mixture is then applied to the engraved lines or recessed areas of the metal object, such as silverware or jewelry.

After application, the niello is heated to a high temperature, causing it to melt and flow into the engraved lines, where it solidifies and hardens upon cooling. The excess niello on the flat surface of the metal is then polished off, leaving the filled lines or recessed areas in black, creating a stark contrast with the polished metal surrounding it. This technique is often used for decorative purposes, as the black niello lines can add depth and intricacy to the design of the metalwork.

It’s worth noting that niello work requires skilled craftsmanship, as the application and polishing process can be intricate and delicate. Niello has been used in various cultures throughout history, and examples of niello work can be found in different regions and time periods, showcasing the beauty and versatility of this unique metalwork technique.

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