Vitreous enamel, also called porcelain enamel in the US, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C. The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating on metal, glass, or ceramics. The term "enamel" is most often restricted to work on metal, which is what our enamel jewelry is. The word enamel comes from the Old High German word smelzan (to smelt) via the Old French esmail. Used as a noun, "an enamel" is a usually small decorative object, coated with enamel coating. Enameling is an old and widely adopted technology, for most of its history mainly used in jewelry and decorative art.
The ancient Egyptians applied enamels to stone objects, pottery, and sometimes jewelry, though to the last less often than in other ancient Middle Eastern cultures. The ancient Greeks, Celts, Georgians, and Chinese also used enamel on metal objects.
Enamel was also used to decorate glass vessels during the Roman period, and there is evidence of this as early as the late Republican and early Imperial periods in the Levant, Egypt, Britain and around the Black Sea. Enamel powder could be produced in two ways, either by powdering colored glass, or by mixing colorless glass powder with pigments such as a metallic oxide. Designs were either painted freehand or over the top of outline incisions, and the technique probably originated in metalworking. Once painted, enameled glass vessels needed to be fired at a temperature high enough to melt the applied powder, but low enough that the vessel itself was not melted. Production is thought to have come to a peak in the Claudian period and persisted for some three hundred years, though archaeological evidence for this technique is limited to some forty vessels or vessel fragments.
In European art history, enamel was at its most important in the Middle Ages, beginning with the Late Romans and then the Byzantines, who began to use cloisonné enamel in imitation of cloisonné inlays of precious stones. This style was widely adopted by the "barbarian" peoples of Migration Period northern Europe. The Byzantines then began to use cloisonné more freely to create images; this was also copied in Western Europe. The champlevé technique was considerably easier and very widely practiced in the Romanesque period. In Gothic art the finest work is in basse-taille and ronde-bosse techniques, but cheaper champlevé works continued to be produced in large numbers for a wider market.
From either Byzantium or the Islamic world, the cloisonné technique reached China in the 13-14th centuries. The first written reference to cloisonné is in a book from 1388, where it is called "Dashi ('Muslim') ware".No Chinese pieces that are clearly from the 14th century are known; the earliest datable pieces are from the reign of the Xuande Emperor (1425–35), which, since they show a full use of Chinese styles, suggest considerable experience in the technique. Cloisonné remained very popular in China until the 19th century and is still produced today. The most elaborate and most highly valued Chinese pieces are from the early Ming Dynasty, especially the reigns of the Xuande Emperor and Jingtai Emperor (1450–57), although 19th century or modern pieces are far more common. Starting from the mid-19th century, the Japanese also produced large quantities of very high technical quality.
More recently, the bright, jewel-like colors have made enamel a favored choice for jewelry designers, including the Art Nouveau jewelers, for designers of bibelots such as the eggs of Peter Carl Fabergé and the enameled copper boxes of the Battersea enamellers, and for artists such as George Stubbs and other painters of portrait miniatures. A resurgence in enamel-based art took place near the end of the 20th century in the Soviet Union, led by artists like Alexei Maximov and Leonid Efros. In Australia, abstract artist Bernard Hesling brought the style into prominence with his variously sized steel plates.
Here is a photo of a silver ring with prasiolite, green enamel, and yellow enamel:
Here is a photo of silver earrings with blue topaz, purple enamel, and yellow enamel:
All our jewelry with enamel is exclusively sold on www.ice.com as part of our Fleur Collection.