Friday, November 27, 2009

Vintage Jewelry Word of the Week - What is Basse-taille?

Today's vintage jewelry word is Basse-taille. This is a French word which means "shallow cut." The term refers to an enameling technique which has chased relief metal which is overlaid with a translucent enamel finish.

During the process, the metal is engraved deeply enough so that the enamel can be held when heated. It also has sides high enough to be sure that the colors of the enamel are kept separate. The addition of the translucent enamel allows light to reflect from the relief and creates a very artistic effect. The end result has a lovely play of light and shade and a brilliance of tone.

The process of basse-taille was first developed in Italy in the 13th century, and was especially popular in Europe during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. This technique was also very popular with mid 20th century Scandinavian silversmiths such as David Andersen, Hroar Prydz and Askel Holmsen. The technique has also been called "translucent enameling."

Here are some xxamples of basse-taille jewelry:


  1. I believe I have three David Anderson butterfly brooches. I inherited even more from my grandmother when I was a little girl but lost some of them when I was still a kid. I'm really curious about when they were made. You can see them in the link below. Maybe you can let me know if you have any information about them:

    1. they look similar to the styles in my article above but unless they are marked as David Andersen on the back of the pins in some way, they could be reproductions.

      Most David Andersen pieces are from the mid 20th century.


    2. Thanks for your fast reply! I read your post about their stamps. I'll have to double check but, yes, I think they are stamped correctly.

      So probably the 1950s or would you say more 60s? I'm just curious as fashion history is a hobby of mine. I don't want to sell them, but it's interesting to know that a search online suggests they're around $80-100 each.

    3. This article might give you some more details on the markings:


    4. Wonderful. Thanks. I have a good eye for quality in vintage but I'm still learning about makers, markings, etc. Got a 1940s, gold-fill, jeweled Bulova watch for $30 the other day. Didn't know it was Bulova till I got it home. Just knew it was good and beautiful.