from The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of several black metallic alloys of sulfur with copper, silver, or lead, used to fill an incised design on the surface of another metal.
  • n. A surface or object decorated with one of these alloys.
  • n. The art or process of ornamenting metal surfaces with one of these alloys.
  • transitive v. To decorate or inlay with niello.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of various black metal alloys, made of sulphur with copper, silver or lead, used to create decorative designs on other metals.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A metallic alloy of a deep black color.
  • n. The art, process, or method of decorating metal with incised designs filled with the black alloy.
  • n. A piece of metal, or any other object, so decorated.
  • n. An impression on paper taken from an ancient incised decoration or metal plate.
  • n. An impression on paper taken from the engraved or incised surface before the niello alloy has been inlaid.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To decorate by means of niello-work; treat with niello or by the niello process.
  • n. A design in black on a surface of silver, as that of a plaque, chalice, or any ornamental or useful object, formed by engraving the design and then filling up the incised furrows with an alloy composed of silver, copper, lead, crude sulphur, and borax, thus producing the effect of a black drawing on the bright surface. The process is of Italian origin, and is still extensively practised in Russia, where the finest niello is now produced. In many examples, conversely, the ground is cut out and inlaid with the black alloy, on which the design appears white or bright, as in the cut.
  • n. An impression taken from the engraved surface before the incised lines have been filled up.
  • n. The dark compound used for such inlays in silver, made up of different alloys of sulphur, silver, copper, etc.
  • n. Inlaid work of the kind defined above.


from The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Italian, from Medieval Latin nigellum, from neuter of Latin nigellus, diminutive of niger, black.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Italian niello, from post-classical Latin nigellum, from Latin nigellusĀ ("blackish").



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  • Niello is a black metallic alloy of sulphur, copper, silver, and usually lead, used as an inlay on engraved metal. It can be used for filling in designs cut from metal. The Egyptians are credited with originating niello decoration, which spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.


    This process is used in making nielloware jewelry.

    January 25, 2008