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Jewelry Enamel: From Cloisonné to Champlevé

June 29, 2017

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.

Enamel Techniques

Cloisonné Enamel

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.

Guilloche Enamel

Art Deco Enamel Bar Pin

This enameling technique was invented from 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.

Champleve Enamel

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

Art Nouveau Enamel Pin

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 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.

Modern Enamel

Today’s high-end jewelers still practice traditional enameling technique. However, in much of today’s mass produced jewelry, traditional enamel techniques are often replaced by an epoxy based enamel-like product.