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Enamel History and Techniques

Many people confuse enamel inlays with ceramics. Although both techniques have similarities in the way how they look, they differ in approach and result very much.
Ceramic glazes are used mainly on pottery/ceramics usually as one layer of pigments, fired in one go (approx. for 12 hours) onto it.
Copper-enamels however have developed from a jewellery technique. In several short firings (rather minutes than hours), metal- and glass powders are fired onto other metals like gold, silver, copper or steel usually in a small jewellery kiln. However new developments have made it possible to create rather large scale enamel panels in big kilns.

History

Enamelling actually originates from China but has also been used extensively in Europe in the last 700 years, mainly in jewellery and delicate ornaments. It was brought by Marco Polo from China to Europe in the 14th century.
It became very sought after with the rich and famous. One well-known example is the Faberge eggs that were made for the Russian Tsar.
In the late 18th century it was developed in Germany especially on an industrial level (bathtubs, bowls, cookware…).


These days enamelling is – in comparison - used sparingly. It can still be found in some jewellery, often brooches. But the most exciting development is that more and more international enamel artists have re-discovered its uniqueness and are transforming it into a contemporary art form by using jewellery enamels for colourful wall panels and even in 3D creations.
Although fairly unknown in NZ nowadays, countries like the USA, Spain, Germany, England and Russia have brought this ancient skill into modern times, holding international competitions and exhibitions on a regular basis. Now more and more artists find innovative ways to explore this medium again.