Telling the difference between Champlevé and Cloisonné enamel

Champlevé enamel and Cloisonné enamel can have a somewhat similar appearance and the two can be easily confused.

Cloisonné enamel is created by soldering fine wire to create the raised outlines of the design and generally no indentation is created in the metal base.  The spaces, or compartments, in-between the soldered wires are then filled with enamel, fired, filed and polished, leaving the wire borders uncolored. The name Cloisonné comes from the French word meaning ‘compartments’.


Stunning example of Cloisonné. Middle Kingdom pectoral found in the tomb of Princess Sit-Hathor Yunet, the daughter of Pharaoh Senusret II, of the Middle Kingdom.


Champlevé enamel is created with indented areas which are carved or cast into the metal and then filled with the enamel.  After the enamel has been fired, the object is then filed and polished, leaving the non-indented areas without enamel.  The name Champlevé comes from the French word meaning ‘raised field’.  


Beautiful example of Champlevé Enamel. Click on image to find out more about this lovely piece.


So, to sum up: Champlevé enamel is created with a single piece of metal whereas Cloisonné enamel is created with a metal base and soldered wire elements. It should be possible, upon close inspection under a loupe or magnifying glass, to tell if there are any joins or solder marks in the raised metal borders around the colored enamel and therefore distinguish which enamel technique it is.


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