A Brief History of Cloisonne

Cloisonne is a decorative process that originally used ground glass (enamel) to create beauty.
It is produced through many different stages. First an item was made from metal and then thin strips of metal attached to form a pattern. The pattern was filled with finely ground glass and fired to form the enamel. Additional colors were added with further firing. Finishing included polishing and coating to prevent corrosion.
12th Century BC: Rings decorated with enamel have been found in graves from 12 BC. in Cyprus. The decorations are course and basic.
8th Century BC: The development of thinner wire allowed Byzantine(or Islamic) art to exhibit finer and more complex works.
14th to 15th Century: During the 14th and possibly a little earlier this craft entered China. It was known as "Dashi ware." The most valuable pieces that have survived come from the Ming dynasty at the time of the Xuende Emperor. Blue enamel was used during this period. The examples of Chinese cloisonne are found mainly urns, vases, and other household items, however the technique was used to adorn ceremonial items, such as crowns and headpieces.
18th Century: The Chinese Emperor Kangxi was impressed with the work, so established an Imperial cloisonné factory. Other decorative techniques were developed, but cloisonné remained the preferred method for the wealthy.
19th Century: Japan, Russia, France, and other countries adopt cloisonné as a decorative form. Many works from that period can be viewed in museums all over the world. The work became more intricate as the artisans developed their skills and raw materials become more reliable. Examples of cloisonné from this era range in size and complexity.
Many famous pieces remain, like the items from the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Alfred Jewel from the 9th century, the Holy Crown of Hungary from the 11th century and the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire from a similar period.
Today, the craft is practiced all over the world. Minerals have replaced ground glass. It is labor intensive and is found in mainly in China and the Middle Eastern countries. It is used to decorate the almost any item from common household items to decorative ornaments and ceremonial pieces.
Many items can be found in both online and off-line stores. If you like to collect beautiful items, perhaps collecting cloisonné is for you. You can start a collection (of modern cloisonné) for as little as $20 per item (thimbles). The highest price paid for a cloisonné is US$16.7m for a pair of ancient Chinese masterpieces.

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