Piqué is a decorative technique, in which gold or silver (and occasionally other materials, like mother-of-pearl) are inlaid into an object to form a pattern. It is also known as piqué d'or (specifically, when gold is the metal used). This design technique originated in the mid-1600s in Italy and developed in France; it was first applied to boxes and other small objets and then the technique spread to jewelry in the early 19th century, blossoming in the 1850s-1880s.
As the technique evolved, English manufacturers developed mass-production methods, which in turn caused the designs to grow less naturalistic and more geometric reflecting the automated techniques. It is highly characteristic of tortoiseshell jewelry (in fact, sometimes the term is used as shorthand for a tortoiseshell piece decorated in this way).
There are two types of piqué:
- piqué point, in which tiny metal pins or wires are driven into the base material to form the pattern.
- piqué posé, in which metal flakes, strips or threads fill in an engraved design.