[Video] The Art of Enameling

How much do you really know about enamel? Behind this word lies an age-old, complex know-how that master glassmakers have continually reinvented over the centuries. From painted enamel to the plique-à-jour technique, notably adopted by the Art Nouveau movement (1880-1914), jewelry and works of art take on a new dimension, enhanced by the depth and intense brilliance of the colored material.

Already used in Ancient Greece in the 2nd millennium BC, enameling is the product of a skillful alchemy involving the fusion of metal and glass.

The Art of Enameling

Enamel work was very popular in France between the 12th and 17th centuries and was passed down through the great families of enamellers, who were constantly developing new techniques: champlevé enamel, which was very popular in the Middle Ages, particularly in Limoges; grisaille enamel, typical of the work of Pierre Reymond (around 1513-1584); and plique-à-jour enamel, used by Charles Riffault, a Parisian enameller and jeweler who worked for Maison Boucheron in the 1870s and 1880s. Enamel also played a part in the creative explosion of Art Nouveau, fueled by the proliferation of scientific knowledge at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a regular companion to the technical and ornamental research that has punctuated the history of jewelry, enamel intrigues and inspires. Transparent, translucent or opaque, enamels lend a subtle play of texture to contemporary creations such as the narrative rings by contemporary designers Ilgiz Fazulzyanov (b. 1968) and Elena Okutova. The same is true of the Automate Fée Ondine (2017), Van Cleef & Arpels' first Extraordinary Object, dressed in sapphires with translucent wings hemmed in diamonds and crafted in plique-à-jour enamel.

Marie Oberlin, Master Enameler and Lecturer at L'ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts and Paul Paradis, Art Historian, Decorative Arts and Jewelry Specialist and Lecturer at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts will introduce you to the mysteries of enamel, which will no longer hold any secrets for you.

Photo: Boucheron, enamel attributed to Charles Riffault, Hairpin (detail). Blonde horn, enamel, gold, diamonds, fine pearl and cultured pearl, 1870. 
Paris, Boucheron collection. Photo: Benjamin Chelly