Cloisonné

Cloisonne earrings

Earrings featuring cloisonné.

I recently came across an interesting artistic technique called “Cloisonné”. It’s name comes from the process itself, which is to form small compartments (called cloisons in French) and fill them with enamel or a jewel. These compartments would be distributed in such a way to create an artistic representation.

While the history is interesting enough, what struck me was the amazing versatility of the technique. This might be a contributing factor to its ubiquity as well. Consequently, it’s very likely that not only have you seen cloisonné art, but you’ve probably seen it quite recently. I certainly have, and I had no idea what it was.

While the technique is more often associated with China, it actually originated in the Middle East. At first it was a bit crude, with rather thick cloison walls which only allowed for geometric shapes. However, in the Byzantine Empire, thinner wire walls were developed, which opened the possibility for more artistic expression. There are numerous representative frescos that survive to this day.

The technique spread throughout Europe and Asia. While it remained more popular in the Far East, a lot of the ancient treasures of Europe can be called cloisonné. The style never went out of fashion and to this day can be found on professional as well as amateur works.

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