Lately I’ve noticed a profusion of artists working with what is sometimes called the new enamel jewelry , or cold enameling with epoxy resin. I’ve seen many designs using this technique with bright colors and powerfully fun designs. The new enamels aren’t made with glass, but with epoxy paint applied delicately with needles and brushes, then cured until an extremely hard resinous coating forms.
I’m a cat lover, and one of my favorite cat jewelry designs in this medium is a pair of perky calico cat earrings – not only is the design concept attractive, but the choice of colors matches my favorite calico, sitting right beside me now! The great thing is the potential for creativity using this new enameling technique. As far as I can see, the process isn’t as complex and wearing as the one using a kiln, and the effect is enchanting in its own right.
I know there are some who are purists, who wouldn’t go near something not created in the old fashioned way. My point is that there’s room for all in this enormous world of jewelry creation. I’m not one to pooh pooh a technique or medium just because it doesn’t have a long and noble history. Every technique now in use in jewelry making was at one time new and possibly looked at askance by the old timers. In the world of creation, specifically jewelry creation, I believe an open-minded approach is the way to go. Who knows what delightful techniques might develop from this one in the future?
This isn’t to discount the beauty of the original enamel designs. There are gorgeous objects, both jewelry and other items made with the painstaking method of heated glass enameling. Have you seen some of the Renaissance pieces in jewel-like tones? It’s remarkable how translucently lovely these are. Even the fearsome Vikings crafted beautiful enamel sword and other weapon hilts, an anomaly I find fascinating.
And closer to modern times, some of the deco and later enamel designs created both in the US and abroad are expressive and fun. The use of color by some of these artists really appeals to me, and the fact that many of the jewelry pieces are one of a kind is especially attractive. Now these sell for quite a bit of money, and I would say they’re absolutely worth it. If you are a true collector, there are still many gorgeous pieces to be had.
Chinese enamel, also known as cloisonné, is another variation originated long ago but is quite popular now, as well. I’m taken in by these detailed enamel jewelry pieces, even though I realize many of them are mass produced these days. The technique itself is so distinctive, that you just have to give the jewelry artists credit for maintaining the ability to produce them.
Whether ancient or modern, enamel jewelry will always be attractive to me, and I hope new methods to create wonderful colorful jewelry continue to appear on the scene.