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Anyone who loves vintage jewelry knows what a silver tone and gold tone finish is. They were commonly used by all of the vintage jewelry designers and most of us have many pieces with this finish in our collections. But what about a different metal finish which is described as a japanned finish. Do you know what this is:?

A japanned finish in jewelry is one in which the metal is coated in a shiny black or very dark gray coating, and often this finish has a lustrous, black lacquer over the top of it. The technique in Europe uses varnish with a resin base, which is applied in heat dried layers and then polished to give a glossy finish. Japanning can also come in red, green, blue and other colors, but the main color used is black.

The technique originated in Japan, India and China. It was used as a decorative coating for pottery. Much later, it became used for jewelry manufacture to give a unique look to the finish of the metal.

Many pieces from the Victorian era use this technique when mourning jewelry was very popular as Queen Victoria went into mourning after Prince Albert’s death.

The pin above shows the front of a japanned rhinestone pin. There are some examples of Japanning on the back of brooches:

Carol Speake
Visit: Jewelry Lane

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