Cloisonné is a decorative enamelwork technique that involves the application of colored enamel to metal objects, typically copper or bronze, which have been divided into compartments by thin metal wires or strips called cloisons. The word “cloisonné” is French and translates to “partitioned.”

Here’s an overview of the cloisonné technique:

  1. Preparing the Metal Base: A metal base, often copper or bronze, is shaped and polished to create the desired form of the object, such as a vase, bowl, or jewelry piece.
  2. Creating Cloisons: Thin metal wires or strips, typically made of copper, silver, or gold, are bent and soldered onto the metal base to form compartments or cells. These cloisons create outlines or partitions that separate different areas of the design.
  3. Filling with Enamel: Colored enamel powder, mixed with a binder or flux, is carefully applied to the compartments created by the cloisons. The enamel fills the spaces between the metal wires, creating a smooth and even surface.
  4. Firing: The piece is then fired in a kiln at high temperatures, typically between 750°C and 900°C (1380°F to 1650°F), to melt and fuse the enamel to the metal base. Multiple firings may be necessary to achieve the desired colors and effects.
  5. Finishing: After the enamel has been fired and cooled, the surface may be polished or otherwise finished to enhance its appearance and durability. In some cases, additional decorative elements such as metal filigree, gemstones, or glass beads may be added to further embellish the piece.

Cloisonné enamelwork has a long history dating back to ancient civilizations, with examples found in artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and China. It reached its zenith of popularity during the Byzantine Empire and later became highly prized in medieval Europe and Asia.

Today, cloisonné remains a valued and sought-after decorative technique, with artisans and craftspeople around the world continuing to produce exquisite cloisonné pieces for jewelry, vases, ornaments, and other decorative objects. Its intricate designs, vibrant colors, and enduring beauty make cloisonné a beloved art form cherished by collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Many people read our art newsletter ; you should too!