Cloisonne is an ancient, enduring technique used to decorate metalwork objects. These objects can range from homewares (vases, plates, urns) to jewelry (pendants, rings, bracelets) to showpiece art forms. The ornamentation is formed first by adding compartments to the metal object by adhering wires placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece separating the different colored compartments of the enamel or inlays.
Cloisonne was first developed in the Near East in times Before Christ. Jewels created from using this enamel technique were worn by Pharaohs, garnet laden variations adorned the diplomatic gifts of the Roman Emperors (likely created first in what was then Constantinople and then copied and re-created by local European goldsmiths), and religious relics of all sorts created from these elements were in use during the Byzantine Empire. The Holy Crown of Hungary, Ming Dynasty relics and the Pala d’Oro, the altarpiece in Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Venice are some major examples of this technique.
Chinese cloisonne is more than likely the best known enamel cloisonne in the world, though Japan produced comparable amounts of high technical quality enamelwork during the mid-19th century. Russian cloisonne is highly valued by collectors namely from the Tsarist era. The House of Faberge and Khlebnikov are great examples. The French have also produced small qualities that are prized as well.