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Exceptional case: the daguerreotype

You have a daguerreotype in your possession. This is a very rare photographic carrier! The oldest daguerreotypes date from 1837, when Louis Daguerre conceived a procedure for capturing an image on a silver-plated copper sheet.

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Daguerreotypes come in different sizes, but the most common portrait size in the 19th century was approximately 5 x 7.6 cm (2 x 3 inches). French plates had the manufacturer’s stamp on them.

Daguerreotype or ambrotype?

Daguerreotypes look very similar to ambrotypes, which are photos on glass and come in a nicely decorated casing like daguerreotypes, often made from silk or leather. The main difference is that a daguerreotype has a silver-like reflective surface, whereas an ambrotype does gleam but not with a silver mirror. Sometimes you can also see a negative image when you move the daguerreotype in a certain angle, which isn’t the case for an ambrotype.


Daguerreotypes are durable but also very fragile. Don’t try to take the daguerreotype out of its casing, and avoid exposing it to bright light.

Read our storage tips here.

Heritage value

Daguerreotypes 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.

Did you know …

… there are no negatives of daguerreotypes? The image obtained was a positive, so every image is unique.

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