ART OF ENAMEL
The history of artistic enameling, as well as the art of jewelry, has a history of more than three thousand years. When and where was the enameling performed for the first time, i.e. colored glass in the molten state is connected to the metal, it is impossible to determine exactly. Higgins, in describing Greek and Roman jewelery, mentions the earliest work with enamel.
For example, in Mycenae (Greece), metal objects were found with soldered glass plates painted in blue, made between 1425 and 1300. BC. These items can be considered the oldest known finds. C VI. BC er Greeks systematically fused enamel on gold jewelry.
On the island of Cyprus, flower shaped pendants made in the technique of filigree enamel, made approximately in the XIV century, were found. BC. In the form and technique of execution, the Egyptian influence is clearly felt. In Kurium (Cyprus) in one of the burials of the XII century. BC. discovered a golden scepter surmounted by a ball on which two figures of eagles are made. The ball and the eagles are partially covered with lilac, green and white notched enamel.
A diadem with rosettes, leaves and flowers decorated with filigree enamel (VII century BC) was found in the Azerbaijan SSR.
From the first half of the VI. BC. Greek ornaments covered with white, dark blue, dark green and pale turquoise filigree enamel.
Both in Etruria and in the southern part of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic similar decorations of the 5th – 7th centuries were found. BC. with typical Hellenistic ornaments, which allow to judge about the Greek influence on the development of artistic crafts.
From III c. BC. small metal pendants made of enamel have come down to us. They were probably immersed in molten colored glass.
Despite the fragmentary information, it can be argued that in the eastern Mediterranean already in the I millennium BC fused glass on metal and that Greek, and later Etruscan ornaments were decorated with enamel. Despite the fact that these first attempts corresponded to the technical characteristics of enameling, yet, if viewed from an artistic point of view, they are only a form of polychrome enrichment of metal adornment inlaid with polished plates of precious stones, ceramics, smalt or glass pasted in the grooves between soldered from the wire partitions.
The transition from inlay to enamel could occur where technical prerequisites for metalworking and the fabrication of fusible glasses were well developed. All that was needed was to put pieces of glass or some glass powder on the metal and melt it, as it had long been practiced in glazing clay.
An interesting find was the items found in the Mycenaean workshop in the palace in Thebes (XIV century BC) in which glass was processed along with gold. In some places they are badly damaged and therefore it is rather difficult to establish whether it was glass powder melted on the product, pre-heated pieces of glass were pressed in or glass plates were cut and glued.
And if you look for the very origins of this art, then it would be more appropriate to speak not about a single case of glass melting, but about mass manufacturing of metal products in conjunction with colored glass. For this reason, it would be more appropriate to consider the ancient Egyptian inserts of ornamental stones.
Egyptian art of enameling
Already at the time of the 5th dynasty (from 2563 to 2423 BC), examples of inserts into the grooves were known. The figured images, written signs and ornaments were made on gold in the form of depressions and then filled with precious stones and smalt.
Already from the 12th dynasty (2000 BC), the technique of inserting ornamental stones into cells became decisive for Egyptian jewelry art. The cells were a transitional stage to the technique of cloisonne and notched enamel.
The cells were made by soldering the partitions according to the later partitioned enamel technology. Lapis lazuli, carnelis and other stones, as well as the smalt that came into use (19th dynasty) were processed according to the shape of the cells and fixed with the help of a resin of the same color.
A perfect example is the pectoral of Senusert II, found in Kahun. It is carved from sheet gold and decorated with golden partitions filled with turquoise, lapis lazuli and cornelian.
Later, glass plates and colored glass powder appeared, attached with glue. With this they created the artistic foundations of the color finishing of metal with stone and enamel. Egyptian decorations always remain strictly planar, stones placed in depressions, enamel, and ceramic plates are recessed to the surface of a metal product, creating a mosaic composition. Egyptian style of making jewelry has been developed in the aftermath of the time beyond Egypt. Decorations from the burial of the wife of Pharaoh Amenemhet from Meroe (Nubia) show that here as early as the 1st c. AD The Egyptian technique of fixing inserts has been preserved, although in more crude forms. In these decorations instead of inserts there are real melted enamels of the classical Egyptian palette.