old tintypes, new jewelry


Update: since I made this post, I was corrected by experts that the images pictured above are actually tintypes (more specifically known as ferrotypes), not daguerreotypes. The development processes are entirely different. In fact, daguerreotypes are positive images on silver-plated copper sheets. Ferrotypes use the Collodion technique — images exposed on an emulsion-laquered dark iron plate (not tin, but they had a “tinny” feeling) — a technique developed after the daguerreotype around 1851. Tintypes required much less time to process and they do not need to be kept under sealed glass protection. Because of the less expensive technique and shorter exposure time, the poses and subject matter can have a more spontaneous and relaxed appearance, and could more easily used by traveling photographers.

Recommended books: The Hidden Mother by Linda Fregni Nagler (2013) and Tokens of Affection and Regard: Antique Photographic Jewelry.

Here is the original post I made, which is still interesting info on the Daguerreotype:

The daguerreotype was the first practical form of capturing a photographic image. Named after Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, the technique was invented in France with the discoveries made by Daguerre with a collaboration with his contemporary, Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, who had taken the first known photograph of a barn in 1826 known as a heliograph which required an 8-hour exposure time!

They found that if a copper plate was coated with silver halide particles and exposed to light in a camera, then fumed with mercury vapour and fixed with a solution of common salt, a permanent image is formed on the surface. The first daguerreotype image was produced in 1837, by which time Niépce had already died, so the process was named after Daguerre.

Many daguerreotypes, especially portraits, were made in the mid-19th century. Due to a fairly long exposure time, most of the positions and expressions of the portraits are rigid and tiresome. Many portraits of babies and children attempt to hide (with drapery) the adult who is actually physically supporting the child from behind. This creates a rather mysterious ghostly element in the composition. The technique was gradually replaced by the wet Collodion process, introduced in 1851.

From my personal collection of old tintypes (pictured above), I am beginning a new series of jewelry pieces which frame the image or a segment of the photo. I am interested in the unknown histories of the people photographed so long ago. This is just the first piece, a pendant called Family Triangle, sterling silver (oxidized) and mini jewel-sized tintype.

Naomi Muirhead, "Family Triangle," sterling silver (oxidized) and mini Daguerreotype
Naomi Muirhead, “Family Triangle,” sterling silver (oxidized) and mini “gem” tintype

See these links for information on Daguerreotypes:

The Daguerreian Society

Decayed Daguerreotypes

Contemporary Daguerreotypes

The Library of Congress Daguerreotype Collection

National Media Museum – the difference between ferrotypes and daguerreotypes

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