The days are getting shorter and the temperature has dropped, signalling that summer has sadly come to an end but that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your colourful summer jewellery. Enamelled jewellery is a great way to add a dash of excitement to your jewellery box, with almost endless colour combinations and applications. In this article we will briefly touch on the history of enamelling, the techniques involved and how best to care for your enamel jewellery.
What is enamel?
Enamel is a specific type of glass which is usually composed of iron oxide, potash, quartz and borax. Pure enamel is colourless and transparent when fired in a kiln, and like some gemstones, such as sapphire or quartz, enamel achieves its colour via the addition of impurities - in this case metal oxides or chlorides. These elements are combined and crushed into a fine powder, which is used to create a paste which is then applied to metals such as silver or gold.Once the paste is in place, it is left to dry before firing in a kiln. The firing process only takes a few minutes but the results can be stunning - bright colourful, gel-like deposits of glass which can vary in transparency.
An ancient craft
It is well known that ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians, fashioned coloured gemstones into jewellery but some included coloured glass in the form of mosaics. The gaps between these pieces of glass would be filled with glass powder and fired to fuse the individual pieces together and secure the mosaic. This was one of the earliest techniques that led to modern day enamelling.
Due to the temperamental nature of enamel, jewellers and artists often experimented with enamelling, that combined with developments in technology and the invention of new materials saw the technique continue to change and improve over time and led to variations in techniques that resulted in a wide variety of finishes. The appeal of enamel began to wear off by the 18th century and modern examples of enamelled works had almost disappeared, but the technique was given a new lease on life during the Art Nouveau period and has continued to remain relevant ever since.
A modern twist
Contemporary enamelled jewellery is making a strong comeback. With the popularity of resins used in jewellery growing every year, due to increased accessibility, many have highlighted the environmental cost of these materials. As a result, many fine jewellers are starting to experiment with enamel again, achieving similar textures and colours to resins but with less environmental impact. Combining enamel with diamonds, precious and semi-precious gemstones and precious metals leads to bright playful fine jewellery that packs a ton of personality.
If you find yourself experiencing some post summer holiday blues why not take a bit of summer into the autumn season by brightening up your jewellery collection with some colour. Finematter hosts a number of designers who have joined the enamel revolution, from these classic Green Enamel Twist Diamond Hoops by Yvonne Leon to more experimental pieces like the Ellipse Carnation Tourmaline ring by Sophie Joanne.
Caring for enamel jewellery
The easiest and best way to care for your enamel jewellery at home is to use a mild detergent such as washing up liquid, warm water and a soft toothbrush. For best results, soak your piece in warm soapy water for 30 minutes before rinsing and gently drying with a soft microfibre cloth. Do consider any other materials included in your item as pieces that feature gemstones or diamonds may require extra attention. For more information on how to keep your jewellery in great condition, visit our aftercare guides here.