Cloisonne Beads

Written by Sarah Provost
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Cloisonne is an ancient enameling technique first practiced by the ancient Egyptians. Later it became known in Byzantium and China, and much later spread to Europe, where it got its common name. Cloisonne beads are among the most beautiful you'll find, looking like miniature works of art.

Very thin wire partitions--called cloisons, from the Old French word for walls--are bent, with great precision, to create a miniscule design. Then they are positioned and soldered onto the metal surface of a bead. Next, the spaces are filled with different colored enamels. The bead is then fired and polished several times to produce the desired effect.

Enamel is essentially powdered glass. A color is applied within the compartment of wire. When it is fired, the powdered glass melts into a smooth, jewel-like surface. This process is repeated again and again to build up each color. Polishing between coats helps give the enamel depth. Finally, the beads are often gilded and then polished again to give them a subtle gleam.

Cloisonne Beads on the Internet

There is a very wide assortment of cloisonne beads available. The most common are round beads of varying sizes, usually enameled with flower patterns. There are also beads of many shapes, such as oval, tubular, hearts and teardrops. Cloisonne is also used to create stunning pendants, which need nothing more than a black silk cord to set them off. The best cloisonne still comes from Asia, particularly Japan.

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