Definition of niello in English:



mass noun
  • 1A black compound of sulphur with silver, lead, or copper, used for filling in engraved designs in silver or other metals.

    as modifier ‘niello inlay’
    • ‘It consists of a series of wide and narrow bands of rinceaux, arabesques, and garlands in niello and filigree, with one lower section including an arcade with figures.’
    • ‘The object is then heated at a low temperature causing the niello to fuse, become viscous, and finally cement itself permanently to the metal.’
    • ‘Along with enameling, decorating watches with niello was a common practice in the nineteenth century.’
    • ‘Taking advantage of the relative ease of inlaying with niello, casemakers used it to create a variety of decorative motifs such as plants, figures, and geometric patterns.’
    1. 1.1Objects decorated with niello.
      ‘on the Continent niello was always highly desirable’


Early 19th century from Italian, from Latin nigellus, diminutive of niger ‘black’.