noun, plural ni·el·li [nee-el-ee] /niˈɛl i/.

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), ni·el·loed, ni·el·lo·ing.

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 formsni·el·list, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for niello

Historical Examples of niello

  • The ground between the ornaments has been cut down, probably for the insertion of niello or enamel colour.

    Finger-Ring Lore

    William Jones

  • Plain engraving, niello, russet work, golden inlay and beaten ornament are common methods of enrichment.

  • While making a niello, the artist naturally wished to see how the work was progressing and if any alterations were required.

  • 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

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

    Paul Patoff

    F. Marion Crawford

British Dictionary definitions for niello


noun plural -li (-lɪ) or -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 or -loed

(tr) to decorate or treat with niello
Derived Formsniellist, noun

Word Origin for niello

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