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Archive for July, 2011

Types of Enamel Used Throughout History

imageMany people do not realize that the modern porcelain enamel signs and house numbers that they look at today actually have their basis in historical enameling techniques that have been in use for hundreds upon hundreds of years.

Many people are familiar with cloisonné pieces. The word cloisonné actually means “cell”. Wire was used to separate different areas into cells that could be enameled in different colors. The enamels were applied to the piece after the wires had been applied to the surface. It is still a technique that is very popular today and is used to make jewelry and other intricately patterned items.image

Limoges enamel is also well known. It gets its name from the city in France where many of the pieces were created. Limoges was a center for enamel work as early as the 12th century. Several different styles of enameling were used at Limoges. In the beginning, champlevé enamel pieces were produced but these changed to grisaille enameling techniques.

Champlevé enamel involves carving out the metal into pits. These pits are then filled with enamel and the piece is fired. The original metal is visible on the finished piece. Grisaille enamel pieces feature a dark background. Translucent enamels are then painted on top. The result is a monochromatic piece with areas of lighter and darker enameling.

Modern enamel techniques can be used to create a variety of different signs such as name plates, address plaques and house numbers. While the finished result may not be as intricate as a piece of cloisonné jewelry, the pieces that you can place on your house are still works of art in their own right.

Why Hand-Enameled Signs and House Numbers are truly a Work of Art

When you look at a hand enameled sign or name plate you may not realize that you are actually looking at a work of art. Hand enameled signs may look similar to those that are made via automated processes but they are actually much more complex and unique than you might realize.

Highlander 5 x 21 cmThe process is a fairly involved one. A design (such as letters, house numbers or a combination of both) is etched on a metal backing. This is then covered in powders which have been colored with a variety of metal oxides. The sign is then fired at an extremely high temperature and the result is a smooth, shiny surface and color that goes all the way through the piece. The design is not limited to the surface of the sign as it is with signs that have been painted.

Because all of the work is done by hand it means that each enamel sign or house number is truly unique. It takes experience to know how to apply the powdered metals and how to fire the piece so that the colors are as vibrant and beautiful as possible.

The porcelain enamel piece is also much more durable than any other type of sign would be. The surface cannot wear off in inclement weather the way a painted sign would. It will also not fade or wear down the way a wooden sign would. Even spray paint can simply be cleaned off the smooth surface. It will not penetrate into the sign as the surface is non-porous.

Examples of how durable enamel signs can be are visible all through Europe. Many of the enamel signs and house numbers that look like they are new have actually been up for decades and are still as beautiful and vibrant as they were when they were first created.