Looking at guilloché in conservation

Brittany Nicole Cox and David Lindow


Guilloché, also referred to as engine turning, is work produced on a rose engine or straight-line engine. The rose engine was developed in the 16th century but found wide-scale popularity in the early 19th century when Breguet applied the craft to augment his watch dials, cases, and movements; many believe it reached its apex with Fabergé. Conservation methodology for guilloché work appears to be a relatively new subject, and understanding the processes by which an object was made or decorated may be the first stage in development. Little information is widely available on the rose engine, and even less is available on the process by which its patterns are created. In this article, we briefly explore the history of these machines and their various uses through examining the steps required for accomplishing distinct patterns and looking at some of the diverse objects that employ them. The rose engine was employed not only in horology to decorate metal objects of art but also in other media, such as pottery by Josiah Wedgwood and modern plastic injection molding patterns. As these machines were used from the early 16th century into the present, many conservators are likely to encounter objects that were either made or decorated by them.

A link is provided to an additional resource in which the reflective quality of guilloché work along with the effects of oxidation on this property is examined, and through this the various pitfalls in the practice of cleaning and repair are identified. Further, 60 common guilloché patterns are cataloged.

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2016 | Montreal | Volume 23