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Enamel Jewellery jewellery design Jewellery Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Enamel Jewellery

The decorative design seen on jewellery is known as enamel. Also referred to as porcelain enamel, vitreous enamel and painted glass, it’s a decorative coating that’s usually applied to metal. It starts out as a powder with a texture similar to baby powder and is fused to the metal using very high temperatures. The fusion process along with the content of the metal oxide, determines the resulting intensity of the colour and its transparency. Generally, lower temperatures can yield softer and more opaque enamels while higher temperatures can yield more durable and translucent enamel.

Everything-You-Need-to-Know-about-Enamel-Jewellery

This article discusses the history of enamelling and the most common techniques used to create exquisite jewellery designs.

Origin

The process of enamelling can be traced back to the Persians, who referred to the art as ‘meenakari’. The Egyptians also practised this craft on pottery and stone objects. Over time, it quickly spread to Rome, Greece, China, Celtic territories and also the Byzantine Empire.

Enamel jewellery gained its popularity in design and art, during the Art Nouveau era in the United States and Europe (1890-1910). Artists like George Stubbs, used enamel for creating portrait miniatures, while Peter Carl Fabergé specialized in baubles or bibelots. Enamelling allowed various artists such as Eugéne Feuillâtre and René Lalique to create nature-inspired and intricate pieces of jewellery. This entire period was considered to be a ripe time for jewellery making and design.

Techniques

When shopping for enameled jewellery, you will encounter many different techniques used to make this type of design.  Here is a quick look at the techniques:

  • Cloisonné

Practiced in Greece and Mycenae, Cloisonné involves the creation of metal cells which are then filled with enamel. The piece is then placed in a furnace and exposed to high heat, which causes the enamel to melt.

  • Guilloché

With this technique, a piece of metal is first placed on a lathe, which cuts the intricate patterns on the metal. The powdered enamel is then layered over top and after heating, the transparent enamel allows the design to become visible. Peter Carl Fabergé’s workshop used this technique to create his famous Easter eggs, cigarette cases and picture frames.

  • Plique-à-jour

This technique is used when trying to create a design that resembles stained glass. The powder is added into a cell which is backed by a sheet of copper foil or any other similar material. The enamel is then heated and the sheet is removed with acid or a light tap. The end result is a shimmering and translucent design.

  • Basse-taille

With this technique, the artist makes cuts of varying depths into the metal. The method involves stamping, engraving and carving. The layered texture gives the enamel various tones and shades of the same hue when heated. Blue and green are favourite colour choices, as they show a rich palette when used with this technique.

  • Champlevé

The artist lines or digs into the metal and places the enamel into the depressions. The piece is then heated up and polished.

Traditional enamelling is a simple process that fuses tiny particles of glass with heat to form a solid layer of colour on any metal background. This unique technique works really well to create jewellery for both men and women. It also produces detailed and bold designs that are available in a wide range of colours.

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