The basic process of enamelling is when vitreous enamel – specially formulated ground glass – adheres to precious metals, copper silver and gold, by means of extreme heat.
It is an ancient craft which goes back to the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Chinese and Japanese.It then moved through Europe to Renaissance Italy and France, Russia and England. It is wonderful to see these old magnificent examples in museums and wonder how they fabricated them with the much cruder tools of their times.
There are three types of enamel. Opaque, where light cannot pass through, transparent, where light passes through easily to the base metal and opalescent, where light passes through slightly with an opal like effect. They are all beautiful, lustrous and the colours last forever.
Apart from the different enamels one can use there are different techniques of application;
Sgraffito, where one can scratch through a layer of freshly laid enamel to a pre-fired enamel surface.
Basse-Taille, where the metal beneath the enamel surface has been textured in some way with a transparent enamel on the surface.
Champleve, where areas of metal are removed and filled with enamel, fired and ground back to a smooth surface, then re-fired to revive the gloss of the enamel.
Limoges, where extremely finely ground enamel is painted on a pre-fired surface with successive applications and firings of very fine layers to build up the design.
Cloisonee, where fine wires form “cells” and very thin layers of enamel are placed within the cells and fired. After 4 to 5 layers the enamel is ground down to a smooth surface with the wires showing. A final firing will restore the sheen of the enamel.
Plique a Jour, where transparent enamel is used as stained glass. The enamel is suspended within a frame and light passes through to show the beauty of the jewell colours because there is no base metal, only the fame.