Plique-a-jour roughly translates as ‘light of day’ or ‘window of day’. It's openwork - glass held with no backing in a precious metal frame letting the light shine through to show its colour and transparency. It is an enamelling technique known to be used for nearly a thousand years. Probably most famously used by Rene Lalique at the turn of the last century. Not often practiced these days because it’s so time consuming, many things can go wrong during firing and finishing.
Plique-á-jour Enamelling - Surface Tension Method:
- The enamel powder is ground to the right fineness and washed of impurities.
- In a paste form it is carefully brushed across the fretwork holes in the silver and held with surface tension.
- The piece is balanced on steel stilts (with nothing touching the enamel) and fired at around 850°c.
- The enamel contracts in the kiln. More enamel paste is added after each firing until the holes are filled and the enamel is clear and bright and the light shines through.
- The piece is then cleaned up and polished to bring the shine back to the silver.
Unlike plique-á-jour, Cloisonné enamelled work has a backing this makes it more suitable for necklaces where there is no light shining from behind. Sections are made using ribbons of fine silver or gold; Or by cutting away shapes in sheet metal to leave recesses which can be filled with enamel.