Here at Gem Hunt HQ we have been seriously having the feels for enamel jewelry and coveting adding a piece to our collection. We have contemplated sharing our enthusiasm for this trend awhile but weren't the right angle to share with our readers. Then Sparrow Jewels kept popping up in our feed with the most amazing enamel pieces (which we are sharing with you in this post) and we realized; like always, the universe was delivering exactly what we needed. We tapped them to answer all our questions about enamel jewelry so when we do decide on a piece we know how to cover our bases.
With expertise from Sparrow Jewels
What is black enamel?
In the simplest terms, enamel is powdered glass, applied to metal and heated to create a colored glaze, usually on the surface. It can be very intricate and detailed or more bold as a solid color used to decorate a piece of jewelry or decorative item. Black enamel specifically is due to the chemicals and oxides added to the silica or glass powder.
Is colored enamel different from black enamel?
No, all enamel is made from the same basic materials and created in a similar way.
What do you need to look for when choosing an enamel piece of jewelry?
Enamel can be damaged from improper storage or harsh abrasives. Look for tiny chips along the edges or a dull appearance. Specialized jewelers can repair damage, but it can be pricey so ask yourself can you live with the wear. Often a bit of wear to the piece shows it has been worn and well loved!
What era is best known for enamel jewelry?
There are many different types of enamel, it is a fascinating technique. In the Art Nouveau period (circa 1890–1915) jewelers used a form of enamel called “plique-a-jour”, French for “letting in daylight”, which resembled stained glass. The Victorian Era (1830–1901) it was popular in both black enamel for mourning jewelry and also cloisonné enamel used in Renaissance Revival pieces. Later in the Belle Epoque Era (1900–1920) a type of enamel called “champlevé” became popular. In champlevé enamel, the gold background is carved or textured and translucent enamel sits on top making an unusual design.
The amazing thing about enamel is that it literally has been used as decoration on jewelry since ancient Egypt. As I mentioned, the Art Nouveau jewelers did some pretty fantastic pieces using enamel. I love the mid-century brightly colored enamel bangles Schlumberger did for Tiffany & Co. It is such a beautiful technique.
How do you best care for black enamel?
Enamel can be very durable if treated with care. We clean our pieces in a circular motion with a damp cloth and avoid anything abrasive as enamel can be easily scratched. It is best to store enamel pieces wrapped in tissue or a pouch where they will not rub against another piece of jewelry.
Want to learn more about our goto treasure hunters Sparrow Jewels? Read our interview with them here...