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Unlike collodion positives, ferrotypes did not need mounting in a case to produce a positive image.
A young boy poses for his photograph at Epsom Derby, 1947, William Jones, Science Museum Group collection.
In terms of quantity, the gem was the most prolifically produced form of photograph in the 1860s in America.
Aside from the speed of its production, the gem was also inexpensive and its small size made it suitable for mounting in jewellery such as lockets and broaches.
This, along with the resilience and cheapness of the medium (iron, rather than glass), meant that ferrotypes soon replaced collodion positives as the favourite ‘instant’ process used by itinerant photographers.
A very underexposed negative image was produced on a thin iron plate.
The huge camera in this photograph is the Diamond Gun Ferrotype Camera, which was made by the International Metal and Ferrotype Company, Chicago, Illinois and dates from the 1920s.
The ability to utilise a very under exposed image meant that a photographer could prepare, expose, develop, and varnish a ferrotype plate in just a few minutes.
Like daguerreotypes and ambrotypes before it, hand colouring was also possible and rouging of the subject's cheeks was the most common form of this.
Carte de visite sized card mounts (2½"x4") were developed to enclose the gem and the finished item was known as a carte de visite tintype or ferrotype.