Edward S. Curtis American, 1868-1952

The Goldtone, which is also known as an Orotone or a Curt-tone, was a hallmark of the Curtis Seattle Studio. Though he did not create the Goldtone process, Curtis refined it after 1900 to such an extent that he is considered the greatest master of the technique. Curtis Goldtones are rare and precious.  A perfectionist, Curtis only printed about one of every thousand negatives in this expensive and difficult process. 

 

In simple terms, a Goldtone is a positive image on glass unlike a photographic print, which is a positive image on paper. The photograph is printed directly on glass, then backed with a gold liquid wash or spray. 

 

It's this gold emulsion that creates difficulties for the artist. The poured emulsion was hard to control: Coatings could be either too dark or too light, irregular and filled with fingerprints. Hence, only fifteen percent of the Goldtones produced by Curtis are considered flawless, and valuable.

 

Nevertheless, Curtis was able to achieve beautiful results, and his Goldtones have become highly sought after. The reflectivity of the gold backing, which is visible through the glass and the lighter areas of the emulsion, creates a luminosity and three-dimensionality that make the photographs unique and very appealing to the collector.