Enamel is glass fused by heat to a metal surface. It is one of the most versatile long lasting and colourful of all art media.
Enamel (glass) is crushed to a powder which is applied to a metal by one of several methods such as dry sifting or wet laying. The work is heated in a kiln to about 850 degrees centigrade, when the enamel melts and fuses to the metal. This usually only takes one or two minutes but often several layers and firings will be needed to complete the piece.
Enamelling has been practised for at least 2000 years. The Greeks were enamelling gold jewellery as early as the 5th Century BC.
When Caesar invaded Britain, he found that the Celts were already using enamel in their jewellery. During the Byzantine era the work was quite delicate and often on a gold base. Until the 18th century enamel was mainly incorporated into religious works.
Limoges in France produced large amounts of enamelled religious artefacts in the Middle Ages mainly on copper.
Later they went on to perfect the art of painting enamel.
From more recent history, the bright, jewel-like colours have made enamel a favoured choice for designers of jewellery, such as the fantastic eggs of Peter Carl Fabergé, the glass work of René Lalique, enamelled copper boxes of the Battersea enamelers, and artists such as George Stubbs and other painters of portrait miniatures. Enameling was a favourite technique of the Art Nouveau jewellers.