Terms of the Trade: Repoussé

Repoussé, or repoussage, is a metalworking technique where a metal is shaped by hammering it from the reverse side. This creates a design in low relief. Embossing is a similar technique in which the malleable metal is hammered on the front side, creating a sunken effect. The two techniques are often used together.

Many metals can be used for repoussé work, including gold, silver, copper and alloys such as bronze and pewter.

These techniques are ancient and have been used worldwide. They only require simple tools and materials but allow for a great diversity of expression. They are also quite economical since there is no loss or waste of material. Toolmarks are often left visible in the finished work.

Some famous examples of repousse are the mask on the mummy of Tutankhamun, the body armours of the Bronze Age, and the Statue of Liberty in New York City!