Collecting Articles and Features

What is Cloisonne?

Please share on your social media

Cloisonné is an ancient art technique used for decorating metal objects, typically with vitreous enamel, in which thin wires (often made of gold or silver) are used to create compartments (or cloisons in French) to contain the enamel. Once these compartments are filled, the object is fired until the enamel melts and fuses into a smooth, colorful surface. When cooled, the surface is polished to reveal the metal lines and the shiny, glassy enamel, creating intricate and vibrant designs.

A Rare Pair Of Cloisonne Enamel Stem Cups Qianlong period
A Rare Pair Of Cloisonne Enamel Stem Cups Qianlong Qianlong six-character marks and of the period. With deep wide cups raised on a splayed foot, decorated around the exteriors in vibrant tones of blue, red and yellow with two pairs of archaistic dragons centering on a stylised shou character, the foot decorated with small flowerheads issuing leafy tendrils, all on a turquoise ground, the bases and interiors gilt, each base with an incised six-character mark within a double square. Sold for 25,000 EUR at Bonhams, Paris, June 2023.

History and Usage of Cloisonne: Originating from ancient civilizations in the Near East, cloisonné found prominence in Byzantine jewelry and religious artifacts before making its way to China, where it was perfected and became highly valued in the Ming dynasty. Chinese cloisonné is renowned for its rich colours and detailed designs, often featuring dragons, flowers, and other traditional motifs. The technique has also been adopted and adapted in various cultures around the world, leading to a rich tapestry of designs and interpretations.

A Chinese Cloisonne Tibetan Style Ewer
A Chinese Cloisonne Tibetan Style Ewer with finely chased gilt-bronze mounts and a scrolling spout, the body decorated with precious objects, auspicious symbols and stylised lotus surrounded by leafy tendrils on a turquoise ground, with formalised borders, early Qing or later, 20cm high. Sold for £190,000 at Dukes, December 2021.

Cloisonne Notable Characteristics:

  1. Metal Framework: Thin metal wires are used to create the designs and partitions on the base object.
  2. Vitreous Enamel: This glass-like material is used to fill the compartments created by the metal wires.
  3. Firing: The object is heated to allow the enamel to melt and solidify, fusing with the metal base.
  4. Polishing: After cooling, the object is polished to reveal the metal outlines and the smooth enamel surface.
A fine and very rare Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) gilt bronze cloisonné scribes water dropper
A fine and very rare Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) gilt bronze cloisonné scribe’s water dropper, probably early seventeenth century, the cylindrical-form pot with flared rim decorated with two five-clawed dragons upon a turquoise ground. Sold for £50,000 at Thomas N. Miller, May 2019.

Applications: Cloisonné has been applied to a wide range of items including jewelry, vases, bowls, decorative plates, and more. Due to the labour-intensive nature of the technique and the skill required, high-quality cloisonné pieces are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch considerable prices in the art and antiques market.

Thimbles & Thimble Collecting

Please share on your social media