Repoussé is a French word, referring to a method of silver decoration, in which the item is hammered from the back to create an embossed design, with added definition created by chasing the item from the front. It sounds involved, and it is, but the end result can be quite beautiful. Case in point: the S. Kirk & Son sterling repoussé hot beverage set seen here that will be offered by Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery in Atlanta, March 31st-April 2nd. It’s one of several lots of S. Kirk & Son sterling silver from the estate of Drs. Morris Sumner and Richard Robbins.
There are few techniques that offer such diversity of expression while still being relatively economical as repoussé. Chasing is actually the opposite of repoussé; the two are used in conjunction to create a finished piece. It is also known as embossing. While repoussé is used to work on the reverse of the metal to form a raised design on the front, chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the work by sinking the metal. The techniques of repoussé and chasing use the plasticity of metal, forming shapes by degrees. There is no loss of metal in the process.