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[nee-el-oh] /niˈɛl oʊ/
noun, plural nielli
[nee-el-ee] /niˈɛl i/ (Show IPA)
a black metallic substance, consisting of silver, copper, lead, and sulfur, with which an incised design or ground is filled to produce an ornamental effect on metal.
ornamental work so produced.
a specimen of such work.
a print on paper made from an incised metal plate before the application of niello and associated especially with 15th-century Italy.
verb (used with object), nielloed, nielloing.
to decorate by means of niello; treat with niello or by the niello process.
Origin of niello
1810-20; < Italian < Latin nigellus blackish, diminutive of niger black
Related forms
niellist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for niello
Historical Examples
  • Most of the ornaments are richly gilt, interspersed with others of silver and niello, and bosses of coloured enamels.

  • It was of silver, but very beautifully engraved and adorned in Russian niello.

    Paul Patoff F. Marion Crawford
  • For niello, and printing, a transverse cut was substituted for the blow.

    Ariadne Florentina John Ruskin
  • A design thus filled with enamel was called a niello, a derivative of the word nigellum (the most black).

    What Philately Teaches John N. Luff
  • The ground between the ornaments has been cut down, probably for the insertion of niello or enamel colour.

    Finger-Ring Lore William Jones
  • While making a niello, the artist naturally wished to see how the work was progressing and if any alterations were required.

    What Philately Teaches John N. Luff
  • Around this are inscribed two names—Catarina, Nicola—the interstices being filled up with niello.

    Finger-Ring Lore William Jones
  • Both sides of the hoop and each bezel are engraved with interlaced designs inlaid with niello.

    Jewellery H. Clifford Smith,
  • The interior of the ears and the lip of the cup have been gilt, and in the nostrils is niello.

    The Shores of the Adriatic F. Hamilton Jackson
  • Francia, originally a goldsmith, is well known to have been peculiarly skilled in executing larger compositions in niello.

British Dictionary definitions for niello


noun (pl) -li (-lɪ), -los
a black compound of sulphur and silver, lead, or copper used to incise a design on a metal surface
the process of decorating surfaces with niello
a surface or object decorated with niello
verb -los, -loing, -loed
(transitive) to decorate or treat with niello
Derived Forms
niellist, noun
Word Origin
C19: from Italian from Latin nigellus blackish, from niger black
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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