Georgian enamel

Georgian Cloisonné Enamel

Medallion_St_Demetrios_Louvre_OA6457Cloisonné enamel “Minankari” is one of the arts which flourished during the Byzantium era and its technique has been refined and sometimes lost during this period. Often the technique was used to make jewelry, but it was also common to depict icons for worship on gold plaques or medallions. Later also items in the household like bowls and silverwear were enriched with cloisonné enamel.

Several decades ago, the traditional art of cloisonné enamel has been revived in Georgia. Mostly used to make little pieces of art which may be worn as jewelry. Although in Georgia you will still often find saints depected on pendants or plaques, it is now more often also by artist to express themselves like they would on canvas.

As a technique to express oneself, it’s not an obvious choice. Not only is it a tedious task to form shapes and to apply colors, it also requires skill and specific knowledge and is prone to error. Starting over after ruining a project, can be very demotivating.

The process

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So what makes this technique so difficult and tedious? To understand this, you have to understand the steps involved in  creating one of these fine pieces of art:

  • Make a design on paper – this is highly recommended, freestyling usually ends up in disappointment;
  • You create (or obtain) a rough shape of precious metal (preferably Gold, Silver of Copper because they have aspects that go well with the further materials);
  • Using very thin silver wire, you start preparing all the shapes which you want to form. This thin silver wire will become the “walls” which seperate the enamel colors;
  • The previously prepared shapes now have to be glued onto the shape (minimal use of glue is key to success!);Now that all the “walls” have been prepared, the colors may be laid in after washing all the enamel powder and preparing it with mineral-less water;
  • After one color layer has been applied, the item may be placed in the oven – depending on the type of enamel/colors used, the temperature varies around 700 degrees celsius;
  • Step 6 may be repeated up to 7 times depending on the required coloring and thickness of layers;
  • Once the shape has been completed, the whole item may be polished in several steps to make it shine – this can be a very satisfying step due to the colors really “popping-out” after this. However, this step may also ruin your whole project if you make a mistake.

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There are some extra variables which may be involved, like applying silverpaper in the background to create a “water” effect. This may further complicate the project, but can also create fantastic results.

One cloisonné enamel project may involve around 3 days of work and is very labour intensive. For some this is a way to clear the mind, for some it’s bound to end in frustration – not only skill and knowledge is required, but also a great deal of patience and experience.

Georgia (Sakartvelo)And that's Georgia!

Georgia, a small country in the middle of the Caucasus region. In the 6th century an alternate route of the famous Silk route went through Georgia. With this Silk route came trade and interaction with other cultures. Georgia, already having developed a strong cultural identity became further enriched by exchanging spices, songs and dances as well as its many art forms. In these last two centuries, trades, techniques and other forms of cultural expressions have further developed and florished.

And today Georgia is known for the following unique cultural aspects:

  • Cuisine
  • Wine
  • Art
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Mineral water