What is enamel?

Enamel is made of powdered glass. Transparent and colorless, it is called "flux". In order to produce different colors and opacities, metallic oxides are added to it. Depending on the metals added, a nearly endless palette can be obtained. For example, cobalt oxide creates shades of blue; manganese is purple, copper produces shades of green. When cooked at temperatures of 800 to 900 degrees Celsius, enamel vitrifies, creating a thin layer of glass and revealing its definitive colors. Enamels are offered in translucent, opalescent or opaque varieties.


Enamel is a very old form of art, originating in Antiquity. Egyptians were the first to master the technique, which they used to decorate amulets. Later, the Byzantines perfected the art of enameling precious metals. Owing to their durability, a number of Byzantine enamels have survived through time and are exhibited in museums today. In the Western world, enamel first appeared in the last century before Jesus Christ, mainly on jewellery and religious objects. At the beginning of the Renaissance, a new technique appeared: painted enamel. This method was quickly adopted by the artisans of Limoges, France, which became a production centre renowned in all of europe. Limousin artisans introduced the use of copper, less expensive than gold and silver previously used. Large-format depictions of religious and mythological scenes, and liturgical objects decorated churches in France, Spain and Italy. During the following centuries, enamel declined in popularity, and its use became limited to small, daily-use objects. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it gained popularity again, and great artists such as Braque and Picasso experimented with it.


The art of enameling is a world of patience and dexterity. First, the copper sheet must be meticulously prepared, as any impurities will prevent enamel from adhering properly. Then, the artist applies the enamel powders with small sifters. The finer the details and the greater the complexity of the drawing is, the greater the challenge. The work is done by overlapping layers of colors cooked one at the time to create the drawing. Not all enamels melt at the same temperature, and harder ones must be cooked first. It can take more than 10 cookings to obtain the final result. The enamelist must have a good knowledge of the colors and the effect of heat on them, as some of them change with the firing. The effects obtained with this medium are varied and magical. See for yourself!