Niello is a very ancient technique of decorating silver. Except for a variation which is currently used on silver from Thailand (Siam), it has not been used in well over 100 years.

The spoons are first hand pounded, thus each is a little different. Then the designs are "gouged out" of the silver. The niello mixture of pure silver, copper, and lead in a ratio of 1:2:3 is created. Sulfur causes the new metal to become a grainy black and it is crushed into powder form. The powder is then applied to the grooves in the silver spoon and the spoon is reheated until the niello melts and permanently attaches to the silver spoon. The piece is then carefully cleaned and any unwanted niello is removed. This is a much more demanding task than this brief description indicates, and it requires a skilled artisan to achieve the proper results.

The bowls on these spoons have also been gilded with gold.

Russian silver niello spoons
The set of 8 teaspoons pictured on this page were produced in 1859-1860 in the new Art Nuevo style.(Some have 1859 dates and some have 1860 dates). They all show graceful flowing loops and curves and a few show rectangles which is unusual for art nuevo. Each piece is different and the eight spoons were made by several different silversmiths probably under a master's control.

The large serving spoon at the top was  NOT part of this set and it is a different design

Russian silver niello spoonsRussian silver niello spoonsRussian silver niello spoons

russian niello spoonrussian niello spoon

Note: One should never eat off the spoons which have niello work on the bowl. The lead in the mixture could enter the brain through the bloodstream and could cause damage. Of course, brain damage from lead poisoning was not known at that time.
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