Decorative finishes to objects

These are the main decoration methods and surface treatments for objects. Please use in the description field. A full list can be found in Controlled Vocabulary (black tab on the left hand side of the screen)

  • Incised: Cut made into surface using any tool Irregular pattern, rough on edges, at different depths.
  • Stamped: Design imprinted onto an object using a die Depending on the die it can be quite a regular pattern. Negative image of design on the reverse.
  • Engraved: Removal of material from a hard surface to form a design. Pattern can be irregular, ornate and is not necessarily cut deep into the object surface.
  • Impressed: Design pressed into a soft material. Often material is dispersed out to the side of the design e.g. wax seals.
  • Drilled: Round shaped holes on the surface made by a rotating tool into a solid material Rough edges round the hole. If modern machine drilled will be fairly regular depth, spacing etc
  • Embossed Die rolled or pressed against soft surface Regular pattern. Can be marks from the edge of the die if it does not cover the entire object.
  • Repoussé Hammering the reverse of a sheet metal object to create a raised design on the front Visible tool marks on the reverse where it has been hammered. Thickness of the object remains the same throughout.
  • Filigree: Using thin metal wire to form ornate designs and securing them in place by solder See solder joins. Often very ornate designs. Wire is in relief from the object.  
  • Polished / smoothed: Where an item has been smoothed to form a shape Usually stone tools. Item is very smooth and rounded.  
  • Burnished: The surface of a pot is polished using a hard flat tool (such as a wooden spatula) before firing Surface of the pot is shiny and smooth.  
  • Enamelled: Glass fired to form a solid and fused onto a metal surface. Usually placed inside shapes made by thin wire on an object, or laid into incised areas on the surface Various colours and shapes on a metal object.
  • Gilded: Applying a gold coat to a solid object of another metal Underlying material often shows through. Gilding appears as shiny golden patches.
  • Glazed: Vitreous material applied to the outside of an object, usually pottery. Shiny in appearance, and can be coloured Inlaid Stones, gems, glass or other materials are placed into voids on the object to form a pattern If the inlay is present it is easy to spot, more often will be missing though and so a bonding material may be the only evidence. 
  • Painted: Design created using a liquid which dries. Usually applied with a brush or sponge Brush marks, drips, uneven colour.  
  • Silvered A silver coat is applied to the outside of an object The base metal can show through, the object may not be as heavy as you would expect for a silver item.  
  • Slipped: Usually applied to pots, the vessel is dipped into molten clay, which coats the outside. Used to make the vessel less porous The outside of the vessel has a different colour to the fabric, but is not shiny like a glaze.  
  • Tin Coated: Thinly coating an object with tin, usually to prevent rusting Shiny silver colour. It can be difficult to tell the difference between this and silvered, so just use the term silvered if unsure.