Etymology:  French, from past participle of cloisonner to partition: of, relating to, or being a style of enamel decoration in which the enamel is applied and fired in raised cells (as of soldered wires) on a usually metal background.

Source:  Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Cloisonné is a unique Chinese art form that originated in China's capital, Beijing, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The art was later perfected in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when the highest power, the Emperor of China who had an artistic sense, asked his artisans to improve the technique. During this time, the most popular colour was a blue called Jing Tai Blue which was most often paired with white.

The techniques and intricacies of Cloisonné production reached its pinnacle during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). With new technologies available, the colours where limitless, and the materials became more workable, thus the scale of the items manufactured ranged from Opium snuff bottles to tables and chairs.

The process of making Cloisonné has multiple operations. It is an artistic combination of metal working (brass/bronze) and porcelain ware. Below is a summary of the process.


Stage 1     Base Hammering
This is the hand working of copper to the basic shape of the item to be manufactured. For intricate shapes and enclosed items, several pieces of metal may be brazed together.

Stage 2     Filigree or Copper Wire Inlay
This is the process of hand laying flat copper wires onto the surface of the hammered base to create intricate patterns and designs. The wires are fused to the base with heat.

Stage 3     Enamel Inlay
Enamel glaze is hand applied to the pattern formed by the previous step. The artifact is then placed in a kiln where the enamel is hardened. This process is repeated a minimum of four times until the enamel is smooth to the top of the wire.

Stage 4     Polishing
The artifact is polished with different grits of compound to smooth out the edges of the wire and the enamel and add luster.

Stage 5     Gilding
The completed artifact is placed in an acid bath for pickling and then into a bath of elect statically charged gold or silver colouring. Any copper that has not been enameled will be plated. This can also be painted on.

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