Piqué work was a decorative technique, in which tiny points or pins of gold or silver (or in a less expensive version other materials, such as mother-of-pearl) are inlaid into a material to form a pattern. In pique jewellery, this is usually tortoiseshell from the now endangered hawksbill sea turtle. Ivory was also sometimes used.
It is known also as piqué d'or (when gold is the metal used).
The technique originated in the mid-1600s in Italy and developed in France where it reached its height in the 17th and 18th centuries and was highly prized.
It was first used to make boxes and other small decorative objects and then spread to jewelry in the early 19th century, becoming very popular in the Victorian period, particularly the 1850s-1880s.
In 1770, Matthew Boulton, an English manufacturer developed mass-production methods (Boulton is perhaps most famous for his collaborations with Wedgwood). This caused the designs to grow less naturalistic and more geometric because the automated techniques. However, the more geometric designs can also be highly decorative and attractive when well done.
There are two types of piqué work, which were sometimes combined into one piece:
- piqué point (also piqué petits et gros points), in which tiny metal pins or wires are inserted into the base material to form a complex inlaid pattern.
piqué posé, in which small metal pieces fill in an engraved design - this is often either scenic or floral.
You can see the pique jewellery we have available HERE.