Repoussé or repoussage is an ancient metalworking technique in which a metal is shaped by hammering or punching from the reverse side to create a low relief design.
The word repoussé is derived from the French pousser, ‘to push forward.’
Chasing is the opposite of repoussé, meaning the metal is hammered or stamped from the front, creating an indent.
‘Chasing’ can also be called ’embossing’. Both chasing and repoussé are usually done onto sheet metal.
Both techniques can also simply be called stamped when hand or machine stamps have been used to indent or push out the metal.
England. c. 1903 Charles Ashbee. Gilded silver, repoussé gold, enamel and turquoises
Both techniques are found in jewelry throughout every era.
Whilst they have both traditionally been done by hand, machines to produce raised or sunken designs on sheet metal were created in the mid-1900s using roller dies or stamps.
Also, cast pieces can have the same effect as hand-worked originals.
It is worthwhile being able to recognize repoussé and chasing work in antique jewelry in order to better evaluate and discuss it.
It is also worthwhile recognizing when the work is hand-done work, cast, or machine-made; this really just comes with having a practiced eye and handling enough pieces.
Keep in mind that metalworking techniques are combined together.
A PAIR OF RARE EARLY 19TH CENTURY CITRINE AND TURQUOISE EAR PENDANTS Each composed of an oval mixed-cut citrine top with repoussé scroll surround and turquoise cabochon point accents, suspending three similarly designed interlinked drops with tassel detailing, to a sphere terminal, circa 1830 Christie’s 5968
England, c. 1880 Brooch, enameled, chased and matted gold V&A Museum
England, c. 1835 Gold and chrysoprase tiara. This tiara was created by pressing the gold into the required shape using a steel die stamping machine.
England, c. 1860 Gold bracelet with a steatite cylinder seal Repousse work
Iceland. c. 1700-1850 Button, repoussé silver, gilded V&A Museum
England, c. 1883 Stamped Silver Brooch V&A Museum
Netherlands, 1787 Button, stamped silver V&A Museum
Paris c. 1844 Cast Silver (the original model would have been created with repousse and chasing work) V&A Museum