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The techniques of the decoration and processing commonly used by Epirot craftsmen were mostly the ones familiar for many years now in the Balkans, which have continued in use in Epirot workshops down to the present day. These techniques are as follows.

Engraving . The artist decorates the silver object by engraving designs either inspired by his imagination or by copying predetermined designs using special tools of {vammeno} steel with wooden handles, called chisels, with different widths, cross-sections and engraving styles. The variety of these chisels (straight for flat surfaces, curved for objects that do not have a smooth surface, thick and finer) enabled him to fashion original, elaborate artefacts, though these required an experienced, steady hand that was particularly skilled at drawing, or at least at copying a design. They also demanded patience and time.
For these reasons, this technique was not very widely practised by craftsmen. It was used in combination with other techniques ( savati , repousse), and had yielded many examples of both secular and ecclesiastical objects from the Byzantine period down to the present day. A characteristic example of engraved decoration is provided by the Middle Byzantine necklace on display in the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki (phot. 1) and the pair of earrings in the Benaki Museum dating from the 11th century (phot. 2).
There are several objects with engraved decoration in the Silverware Room of the Byzantine Museum in Ioannina, dating from the 18th-19th century (A.K. 301, 303 302) (phot. 3, 4, 5).

Relief Or Embossed This technique was very widely found and flourished in Epiros. Examples of it are known from the Byzantine period. By way of example, we may mention the silver dish with a representation of a shepherd, now on display in the White Tower, Thessaloniki, and dating from the 7th century (phot. 5), and the bracelet in the P. and Al. Kanelloupoulos Museum, dating from the 11th century (phot. 6).
The technique is a very complicated one, involving two stages, and has produced some true masterpieces.
In the first stage, the object is hammered and then the front of it is placed on a surface of pitch. The design is partially transferred to the back of it with a pencil and then embossed with spitsounia and hammer. When the embossing is finished, the object is heated and detached from the matrix and the process is repeated; the engraved back of it is now placed against the pitch and embossed in its turn. This double embossing creates relief surfaces at different levels and sets the background apart from the main design. Once the process of embossing is complete, the object is heated to about 700 o C with a flame from a propane bottle and boiled in sulphuric acid.
There now follows the second stage, including the polishing. When the object has been boiled it is a milky colour, and the only way to get rid of this is to polish it, which is now done electrically (using a motor), while in earlier times it {steel with a polished end} was used to polish the entire object.
According to silver-smiths, polishing carried out by the old methods never deteriorated, while the modern technique has to be repeated after a few years.

Open-Work or Perforated. This is a rare technique in Epiros, though it is known from Byzantine times and has produced some outstanding examples of jewellery decoration. By way of example, we may mention two pairs of earrings now in the P. and Al. Kanellopoulos Museum which date from the 6th-7th century.
It is used mainly with silver objects that have embossed decoration. The artist, wishing to give them an abstract appearance, removes large pieces of metal of various shapes to create open-work motifs.
When the piece removed from the metal is cut with a small saw called a sega , rather than with chisels, the technique is known as segaristi .
Sometimes the piece removed from the main body of the silver is engraved separately and used to create a jewel (a pin, or a medallion).

Filigree This is the oldest technique, with roots going back to prehistoric times.
It was very widely found in the Byzantine period, often in combination with enamel. Some very fine examples are on display in the Benaki Museum (earrings of the 13th century) and the P. and Al. Kanellopoulos Museum (earrings of the Early Byzantine period).
Its spread in Epiros is placed about 1700 by scholars, who assert that it is an imitation of a Venetian technique practised in Italy from the 16th century onwards.
In this technique, the objects are made of wire. Plaques of silver are melted in a gas-operated crucible and poured into moulds with the form of rods.
The rods so produced are fed into an electric cylinder from which they emerge in the form of wire, though not of a single thickness. Some pieces are made thick, and others thinner.
Two very thin wires are twisted and pressed to produce what is called a leaf or filament, which is used to create decorative pieces and serves as inner decoration, while only the thicker wire is used for the outline of the object and any partition strips.
Wire made of inferior material is used to hold the pieces and outline firmly in the desired form while it is welded.
The object is then wetted and smeared with a special powder, which is followed by the welding, by holding the object close to a gas flame.
After this, it is boiled in vitriol, rinsed with water and soda, and finally heated on a fairly low fire. This process is repeated two or three times until it turns white. Finally it is dried in sawdust and then cleaned, ready to sell.
Sometimes small silver granules are set on the surface of the wire. When there are a lot of these, they create a granulated decoration at the expense of the filigree, producing a new technique called milligrane (=a thousand granules).
Byzantine jewellery with granulated decoration is on display in the Benaki Museum, dating from the 11th century, and also in the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki.

Savati or Niello This technique is very common in Epiros. The word savati has Arabic origins ( savad = black). This decorative technique is known as early as the Roman imperial period (it is said to have been a substitute for enamel for the poor Christians of the Roman empire). Two bracelets with niello combined with engraved and repousse decoration, preserved from the 11th century, are kept in the Benaki Museum.
M. Botsaris says that savati was used for the first time in the West to decorate secular objects in the 12th century, while in the 11th century a Benedictine monk of the Helmershausen Monastery in Germany writes of the savati technique as used in Tuscany.
No savati decoration is attested in the West in the 16th century, though clocks were decorated in this technique in 17th-century France.
In 18th-century Russia savati was the basic decorative technique, and it continued in use in the area around Constantinople even after the fall of the city.
In Epiros, savati consists of discrete grey lines forming geometric designs, figures and floral motifs; it is composed of silver (in small quantities), copper, lead and sulphur. This contrasts with oriental savati which is jet black.
The artist uses a chisel to cut the design deeply on the silver surface, and then spreads on it the mixture of savati , which is melted by fire and stabilised. As soon as the object cools down it is polished with emery paper. This process turns the object black where there is an incision and, of course, niello, while the raised parts of the silver remain unchanged.
This is a very difficult technique, requiring experience to achieve the desired result. It is still used at the present day in Epiros, and there are many examples of it in both ecclesiastical and secular silverware.

Enamel This technique is used in combination with those already mentioned to decorate silver objects.
Enamel was known from as early as the 4th century BC to the Persians and was very widespread from the 9th to the 11th century in the Byzantine world, where it was used mainly to decorate gold artefacts. By way of example, we may mention the 9th-century bracelets found in Thessaloniki and now on display in the Museum of Byzantine Culture in that city, and the encolpium of the 10th-11th century in the Benaki Museum.
In modern times it is used to adorn silver ecclesiastical and secular objects, and Epiros can boast several examples of enamelled jewellery and vessels.
Enamel is a mixture of glass paste and lead oxides.
To decorate the metal, it is spread over it in powder form and heated to a temperature of 600-800 o C, at which it melts and produces coloured translucent or opaque surfaces.
During the heating there is a risk, if the temperature goes above the melting point of the metal, that it will fuse with the enamel.
A successful combination of colours also creates a successful aesthetic appearance.
Enamel work may be divided into two categories, according to the way in which they are made: cellular, or cloisonne, and receded
In cloisonne enamel (made pre-eminently by the Byzantines, who created masterpieces with it), the substance is placed between strips of thin metal glued to a silver surface.
In receded enamel the substance is placed in small cavities that form the design. This was an easier technique, and the material used was not always pure silver, or even inferior-quality silver, but sometimes silver-plated copper. Villager's belts were made of this material and with this kind of decoration.
In Epiros, enamel objects were called tzovairika , and the people who made them tzovaertzides , a name that ultimately included all silversmiths and became synonymous with chrysikos ('gold and silversmith').
Obviously not all the above techniques were used in the decoration of all artefacts. An object, that is, might be decorated only with repousse, or only engraving, or only with filigree.
More commonly, however, more than one decorative techniques were combined: engraving and repousse, enamelled filigree, or engraving with filigree decoration and savati.
The only clear distinction that can be drawn relates to the processing of the material, on the basis of which objects may be divided into forged and cast.
A piece that is forged cannot also be cast, unless it is a forged item to which additional cast pieces are added.
The dividing lines between techniques in Epiros are fluid, and the surviving artefacts reveal the imagination and dexterity of the artists of the region, and the ingenuity with which they have combined the techniques.

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