Art Deco Octagonal Cufflinks with Rose and White Enameling (LEO Design)

Like so many of the things I love, enamelling has ancient roots, beginning with the early Egyptians.

The word, enamelling is adapted from the Old German “smelzan,” which means “to smelt” (that is, to melt—a rock, usually— to extract any precious metals within it).  In the case of enamelling, glass powder is sprinkled over a base material (usually metal but also glass, ceramic, or stone).  The object is then fired at a very high temperature—hot enough to melt the glass powder, but not hot enough to melt the base material. Depending upon the base material, that temperature roughly is between 1300°-1600° Fahrenheit.   After firing, the glass powder will have melted, spread-out, and cooled as a smooth, glassy surface.

The earliest examples of enamelling is found in Ancient Egypt where enameled stone, glass and jewelry has been found.  In the Middle Ages, the Romans and Byzantines took the technique to a new level, where enamelling was used to imitate the more costly technique of cloisonné, that is, cutting and inlaying precious stones into a flat, decorative surface.  To do this, a metal base is crafted with raised lines which separate the different colors of glass powder.  When melted, the piece has distinct, separate “fields” of enamelled color.  It’s like “coloring within the lines.”

Enamelling has also been found amongst the Greeks, Celts, Georgians, and the Chinese. And on the cufflinks, pictured above.  Click on the photo to learn more about them.


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