The cloisonné technique is very flexible and can be used to achieve virtually any artistic design. I love it because the pieces appear to be small paintings, captured in a piece of jewelry.
Cloisonné is a French word meaning ‘cells’, and its history reaches back to ancient Egypt, where examples have been found in funerary articles.
The process was refined in Byzantium, using thinner wires, which allowed for more pictorial enamel designs. The technique began being used in China, where it was used in jewelry and in making large bowls and vases. It is still popular there today.
Custom cloisonné jewelry is becoming more and more popular in the United States because it represents exquisite contemporary jewelry, influenced by classic designs.
Cloisonné jewelry begins with a lacework of either pure gold or silver. The wires are incredibly fine and the cells are created by painstakingly soldering each wire into place or by casting the filigree from a wax casting. The enameling can begin once this framework is assembled.
Tiny amounts of ground enamel are mixed with water and placed into the tiny cells. Surface tension holds it in place. The piece is then fired in a kiln (oven) at approximately 1450° F and removed once the enamel has melted.
The melted enamel naturally pulls towards the walls, leaving holes in the center of each cell. Multiple layers of additional enamel must be added and re-fired until each cell is full. The piece is then ground down to remove any rough edges, and fired one last time to give the enamel its glossy appearance.
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