noun, plural ni·el·li [nee-el-ee] /niˈɛl i/.
  1. 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.
  2. ornamental work so produced.
  3. a specimen of such work.
  4. 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.
  1. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for niello

Historical Examples of niello

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

    Paul Patoff

    F. Marion Crawford

  • For niello, and printing, a transverse cut was substituted for the blow.

  • 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

  • A design thus filled with enamel was called a niello, a derivative of the word nigellum (the most black).

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

British Dictionary definitions for niello


noun plural -li (-lɪ) or -los
  1. a black compound of sulphur and silver, lead, or copper used to incise a design on a metal surface
  2. the process of decorating surfaces with niello
  3. a surface or object decorated with niello
verb -los, -loing or -loed
  1. (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