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Exceptional case: the ambrotype

You have an ambrotype – a rare find! Ambrotypes are photographic prints on glass, often in a nicely decorated casing. They were very popular from the 1850s, and replaced the more expensive daguerreotypes on silver-plated copper sheets.
Ambrotypes are sometimes confused with daguerreotypes, but the latter has a silverish reflection, which an ambrotype doesn’t.

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Black background

There is often a piece of black paper or fabric behind the ambrotype, or the back of the plate is painted black. This is because the image without this black background appears as a negative image, which means the light areas appear dark and vice versa.

Read more about negatives here.


Old ambrotypes always have heritage value. You should therefore contact your local heritage society for more info about how to preserve, store and digitise your valuable find.

closed casing with ambrotype

Did you know …

… ambrotypes were often coloured in, for example with oil or watercolour paints, crayons or pastels? The jewellery worn by women in portraits was often accentuated using this method, for example.

Met de steun van Vaal nderen en EFRO europees fonds voor regionale ontwikkeling