A short History of Enamelling

Celtic Jewellery

The earliest known enamels date back to the 13th century BC. They were rings, made from gold with inlays of enamel. Ever since, people all over the world seem to have enamelled in one form or the other.

In the 3rd century AD, Celtic warriors adorned their harnasses, swords and shields with enamel. They used a form of the basse-taille technique, filling hollows in the bronze with coloured glass. (For more information about Celtic jewelery, click here.)

In the 6th century BC, Greek goldsmiths were known to have incorporated enamels in their work They mainly used the technique of cloisonné, in which the cloisons were made of thin gold wire. The technique of making gold cloisonné  and champlevé work was practised all over the Byzantine Empire  from the 4th to the 12th century AD. When, in the second half of the 10th century, King Otto II of Germany married a Byzantine princess, she brought her own craftsmen along. Their work was of great influence on the work of European craftsmen.

 During the Renaissance, European goldsmiths produced beautiful, mainly religious, objects in the techniques of champlevé, basse-taille and plique-à-jour. Then, in the 15th century, the famous family of Pénicaud introduced a way of enamel painting in which they did not need to use cloisons.

In the Netherlands many beautiful pieces of jewellery were made in the Jugend Still period  and enamel began to be used for kitchenware, bathroom equipment and enamelled advertisements.

After some time, when people began to have more time for hobbies, enamelling was rediscovered and it made a rapid and glorious return in the World of Crafts. Enamelling was taught in schools and hobby centres, and a number of academies opened enamelling departments. Then,as quickly as it had captured the attention, interest in the craft subsided again.

When academies closed their enamel departments for lack of students, it seemed that allinterest had vanished

Luckily, a small number of artists remained interested. They came together and slowly but surely they made the tide turn. This happened in many countries and when France took up the challenge by organizing international Biennial exhibitions for enamellers, this craft, now seen as a form of art, came into the limelight again.

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