© 2012 Fourtoes OpalsDuo

Opalotypes…. maybe

Well these two arrived today as promised. A little something different from the usual tintypes and ambrotypes. These, I think, are opalotypes and are whole plate in size. If you know different then let me know.

“Opalotype or opaltype is an early technique of photography. Opalotypes were printed on sheets of opaque, translucent white glass; early opalotypes were sometimes hand-tinted with colors to enhance their effect. The basic opalotype technique, involving wet collodion and silver gelatin, was patented in 1857 by Glover and Bold of Liverpool. Opalotypes exploited two basic techniques, using either the transfer of a carbon print onto glass, or the exposure of light-sensitive emulsion on the glass surface to the negative. Opalotype photography, never common, was practiced in various forms until it waned and disappeared in the 1930s. “Milk glass positive” is another alternative term for an opalotype.” – from Wikipedia

They are well glued down to their backboard and frame so I’ll not be taking these apart for a closer look. Here are a couple of raking light shots so you can see the over painted surface.



I wouldn’t normally of bought these, as they tend to fetch a lot of money at auction than I would usually be willing to pay, but these had been listed on Feepay incorrectly so I got them real good price. And I do like a bargain….



  1. Peter
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:23 PM | #

    Wow, those are stunning. Why aren’t people making these today?!

  2. Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:01 PM | #

    Hi Peter, I know what you mean, would be great to try some of these, I’ve been looking into collodion lifts etc.
    Hope you are well,

  3. Tricia
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:07 PM | #

    These are quite lovely, and the frames look beautiful. Are they some sort of metal? I love the idea of this process being done on milky glass, and the hand painting is amazing ….how old would the be?
    Whatever, they are super, and so glad you got a bargain, too !!

  4. Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:10 PM | #

    Hi Trish,

    The frames are made from a blue-sh velvet? There is a new card backing which is well glued, I’m half tempted to take these apart to take a good look at them. As for age…. no older than 150 years.

    good to hear from ya,


  5. Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM | #

    Hi Fourtoes
    These look like typical Opalotypes, very nice too! They could have been made between 1860 and 1930 roughly, but in practice there was a brief vogue and the great majority date from 1890-1900. The velvet frames suit that date too. If they aren’t tarnished, they are probably carbon prints transferred to the surface of opal glass (there were also silver-gelatin ones). They were upmarket at the time, and tend to survive the years particularly well.

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