Jewelry Enamel: From Cloisonné to Champlevé
There are lots of different enameling techniques. Too many to cover in one short blog post, so instead I’ll talk through some of the most commonly used and asked about techniques.
Before we jump into the specific techniques it’s worth mentioning that enamel can range from transparent to opaque, with opalescent or translucent enamel falling right in the middle. People tend to be most familiar with opaque enamel. Okay, now back to the task at hand.
Cloisonné enamel is made using thin strips of flattened wire that are adhered to a base. Different sections of the design can be filled with different colored enamel. The wire remains visible in the finished piece and acts as an outline for the finished design.
PLIQUE A JOUR ENAMEL
This technique is similar to the cloisonné technique, except the base is removed creating a stained glass effect. The enamel used in plique a jour is transparent or opalescent which allows light to shine through.
This enameling technique was invented by Carl Fabergé. I know what you’re wondering, and yes, that is the egg guy. Guilloche enamel combines engraving with transparent or opalescent enamel. The enamel sits on top of an engraved base. The transparent enamel allows the design to show through.
The first step in champleve enamel is to carve out channels or engrave a design into a metal base. The metal base is thicker than it is in cloisonné enamel. Through the process of carving the metal a relief of an image is created. This relief is then filled with different colored enamels, usually opaque.
ÉMAIL EN RONDE BOSSE ENAMEL
This style of enamel become very popular during the Art Nouveau period, although it was invented much earlier. While all the other enameling techniques we’ve talked about are done to a flat base, the émail en ronde bosse style is applied to 3-dimensional shapes. Before applying the enamel, a gum or glue to painted onto the surface. The enamel adheres to this base layer and when the enamel is heated the gum or glue melts away, while the enamel remains intact.
Today’s high-end jewelers still practice traditional enameling techniques. However, in much of today’s mass-produced jewelry, traditional enamel techniques are often replaced by epoxy-based enamel-like products.