[Niello] Permanent Black

There has lately been many good suggestions for making
depression in metal black, But I haven’t seen the word NIELLO
mentioned. I have more recipes so if you need More inspiration
contact me Erik in rainy Denmark @Erik_J_rgensen


I would like more info on Niello. I have a job I’m doing soon
that requires some depressed area’s blackened. How is it doane?
Is it permanant? Thanks in advance. David A. Ginis

Ginis Goldsmiths

G’day; I have used niello with excellent results. Only one
problem; to make it one has to melt together, silver lead copper
and sulphur. Now there’s no difficulty with the metals but when
the sulphur is added one gets very large amounts of choking,
toxic, deadly fumes of sulphur dioxide which hare not at all good
for the health. I tried to make some outside in the garden, but
a sudden swirl of wind in my direction and I copped the lot. I
was still coughing and carrying on several days afterwards,
partly I do admit because I have a mild case of asthma, but
making niello is an undertaking that needs to be performed with
extreme caution. But; like I said, it gives excellent blacks and
there is really nothing to touch it except maybe black fired
enamel. What niello I had was provided by a gracious lady who no
longer seems to answer email. I sincerely hope that is not a case
of cause and effect! If anyone likes to provide me with a little
I shall be grateful… Cheers and all together now with the
Company Anthem chorus;

Dear John, We made some in a class with Philip Fike and I shall look
around to see if I have any left… The sulphur was rather drastic but we
had excellent exhaust except the exhaust was exhauted right out side the
entrance of the classroom… Great Huh! calgang

I’ve never made niello, but in “Metals Technic” (ed. by Tim McCreight)
there’s a very informative article on the process by Phillip Fike. The
article is illustrated, including suggestions and a drawing for a
jerryrigged ventilation system.

Rene Roberts

John, In your post you mention silver,lead,copper & sulphur, in what
proportion are they combined? Melted in a crucible? And what form is the
sulphur found in? Looking forward to more info! Thanks

David A. Ginis
Ginis Goldsmiths

Hi there,

For an excellent reference on niello, read “Metals Technic.” The book is
written by various metalsmiths on their specialties. The chapter you want
is by Phillip Fike. He is largely responsible for the “rediscovery” of
niello for use in contemporary ornament during this century. Not only
does he explain how one makes niello but he gives some history on the
alloy. Also included is how to construct a makeshift exhaust hood that
could save your lungs. Hope that helps --GBereza

Hi David I have found a book that has more about NIELLO I
than can give, it also have more recipes than I have, so pleas try to get
that book.


Erik in rainy Denmark.
I've never made niello, but in "Metals Technic" (ed. by Tim McCreight)
there's a very informative article on the process by Phillip Fike. 

Thank you Rene: I only made it the once, outside in the garden, away from
evrything, wind blowing away from me - but that little bit of wind
changed as soon as I added the sulphur and I got the odd lungful (Murphy’s
Law Lives!). It took me three days to get over it and I say NEVER

I spent most of my life in laboratories, and as Senior Technician and
Safety Officer, I know all about fume cupboards, etc. But I have been
gassed with chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide. hydrochloric acid
gas, hydrogen sulphide - and a whole lot of other things you wouldn’t want
to know about! You see, it was my job to get things sorted out after
students and other ignorant folk smashed the 2L glass bottles and left the
gas cylinders on then left for home etc, leaving me with the problems! And
up to 30 years ago I smoked 60 cigarettes a day. With the consequence that
what is surprising is at 78, I only have mild asthma!!

I do have Tim MCreight’s book, by the way. Cheers and thanks for writing.
Join the boys in the chorus of the Company Anthem

John Burgess