Silverpoint is an ancient drawing technique that was used by artists before the discovery of graphite as a drawing medium. Artists such as Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt all used silverpoint to make drawings. Silverpoint or metal point is a method of drawing using a sharpened metal wire of pure silver, gold or platinum on specially prepared paper. The paper was originally painstakingly prepared using a mixture of ground bone and animal skin glue.
You can see why graphite pencils and chalk quickly made metalpoint obsolete. The technique was almost lost but inevitably (and thankfully) some crazy artists always keep these things going so that we can try them now. Technology has graced us with a commercially produced silverpoint ground with which to prepare the paper making it much less onerous though it still takes time. The ground is brushed onto heavy watercolour paper in several coats and allowed to dry. It is then sanded smooth. Silverpoint drawings look much like ordinary pencil drawings only they tend to appear more detailed and precise.
Drawing with silver or gold instead of graphite is much different though. If you press on a pencil the mark it makes is darker than if you lightly stroke with it. With metal – the mark is the same colour whether you press or not. To get shading from light to dark the metal has to be built up in many layers. To compare – a small, detailed 5×7 drawing of a person in graphite will take me less than an hour to complete. The same subject in Silverpoint will take as much as 20 hours to complete. The interesting thing about silverpoint drawings is that since they are rendered using elemental silver – the drawings will tarnish and darken over time just like your silver ring or teapot. The same does not happen with drawings made with gold or platinum.