Cloisonné Process & Technique
Enameling is the process of applying small granules of glass (enamel) to metal and firing, at high temperatures, in a kiln. Cloisonné is the technique that involves firing thin, flat wire on to a base of enamel coated metal. All enameling is done on fine silver, and the wire is 24K gold and fine silver. The gold and silver wires are formed into linear designs using fine tweezers & various small pliers. The wires are temporarily glued to the surface of the enameled silver piece with an adhesive binder. The piece is then fired, causing the enamel to slightly melt. The wires sink into the softened glass, securing them to the surface.
These enclosed areas created by the wire, known as cells or cloisons, are filled with colored enamel and fired. Several layers are applied and fired until the cloisons are filled to the top with enamel. The piece is then ground down on a lapidary grinder to a uniform, smooth surface. The enamel piece is then washed and “flash fired” in the kiln which restores the glass to a high gloss finish.
Each cloisonné piece goes through a minimum of 7 firings, from the initial enamel coating of the fine silver base to the final flash firing. Each firing is approximately a minute long at temperatures of 1400 - 1500 F. A setting is fabricated for the finished cloisonné piece using a combination of fine silver, sterling silver, 14K, 18K and 22K gold, and gemstones.
Many hours are needed to complete one piece. The time involved for each piece varies according to its size & complexity. A small pendant, for example, may take only 6 hours, while a large brooch might require 25 hours. In the case of complex bracelet, Michael may require more than 40 hours to complete the piece.