Embracing Nature's Palette: 

A Personal Journey into Cloisonné Artistry

Jewelry has always been a tangible expression of the artistry and creativity of nature. In the vast realm of techniques, cloisonné stands for its intricate beauty and historical significance. In this blog post, we invite you to journey with us through the process of crafting our cloisonné pendants.

by Diane Morrison

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My earliest memories are infused with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, its kaleidoscope of colors, layers of light, and the profound sense of freedom it bestows. From hiking through the wilderness to gazing at star-studded skies, I found my sanctuary in the great outdoors. Nature, with its soft serenity and occasional ferocity, captivated me then, as it does now.

Stained Glass Beginnings

I had years of experience making stained glass, and loved the array of colors the medium offered. When I became a jeweler I searched for ways to incorporate the same vivid color palette into my sliver jewlery.

As I embarked on my journey as a silversmith, drawing from years of experience as a stained glass artist, I grappled with a challenge - how to infuse the vivid colors of the natural world into my designs. Working with mixed metals and various patinas offered a palette of possibilities, yet the limited colors of patinas and their chemical nature left me yearning for more.

It was during a ring-making class taught by a fellow silversmith and cloisonné artist, that I stumbled upon the transformative art of cloisonné. With its structured fine silver wire drawings, this technique unlocked a world where I could "paint" within these wire cells. Here, I could harness the brilliance of colored glass and textured metals, creating a masterpiece akin to a leaded glass mosaic.

What is Cloisonné?

Cloisonné is an age-old decorative technique used to add intricate designs to metal objects. The term "Cloisonné" is derived from the French word "cloison," which means "compartment." It involves creating small, raised cells on metal surfaces using fine silver wires, which are then filled with vibrant colored enamels. The result is a stunning, mosaic-like effect that resembles stained glass.

Step 1: Design and Inspiration

Every Cloisonné pendant begins with a vision. Artists draw inspiration from various sources, be it nature, culture, or personal experiences. The design is meticulously sketched to fit the pendant's shape and size, ensuring that the end product is both aesthetically pleasing and technically feasible. My favorite motifs to explore are mountain landscapes and botanicals, inspired by local landscapes and flora.

Step 2: Forming the Copper Base

The first step in fabrication involves crafting the base for the Cloisonné piece. I typically use recycled copper for the base, because it is malleable and affordable, but other metals can be used. The copper base not only provides a sturdy structure but also acts as a canvas for the enamel work that will follow. Pre-cut copper blanks can be purchased from many jewelry supply shops, but I prefer to use pancake dyes, like these from Potter Tools to cut my favorite shapes from my recycled copper sheet. I also usually use a dapping set to dome the copper slightly which helps prevent warping and cracking.

Prepping the Copper 

An example of the steps of preparing copper blanks for enameling. Along with a selection of my favorite tools for enameling, including high-precision tweezers from Dumont and fine tipped sable brushes from Hatho.


Then the piece is cleaned to remove grease or oil, and counter enamel is applied. During the cloisonne process, metal can warp due to the high temperature of the kiln, causing cracks to form. To prevent this, artists apply a layer of enamel to the back of a piece beforehand called “counter enamel.” This creates equal stress on both the front and back of the piece and helps prevent warping or cracking. I prefer to use a sifting method, where I apply a layer of flux and then a layer of dry enamel powder directly to the back of the piece.

Step 3: Creating Cloisonné Compartments (Cloisons)

The heart of the cloisonne process is creating the individual compartments or "cloisons" on the silver surface. Fine strips of fine silver or gold rectangle wire are painstakingly bent, forming the outlines that will hold the vibrant enamels. Precision and attention to detail are key at this stage. I use very small mandrels of different shapes to form my wires, but my favorite tool for cloisonne is this pair of Dumont High Precision Tweezers. The tips are very fine and perfect for manipulating and positioning fine cloisonne wires. I use a couple of different products to hold the wires down while I build my design. My favorites are called Klyr Fire and Blu Stic

Creating the Cloisons

Fine wires are bent to form compartments, held in place with specialized tools like Blue Heron Cloisonné Tweezers and adhesives like Klyr Fire.

Step 4: Applying Enamel

Enamels are made of finely powdered glass. Powdered enamels contain glass particles of all different sizes, from quite large pieces through to fine dust. Sifting helps to remove any unusually large particles before rinsing. Fine dust, referred to as “fines,” – can make transparent enamel look cloudy, so repeated washing eliminates these fine particles to create a clearer end product. With the cloisons in place and the enamels prepared, the colors of nature begin to come to life! Using a steady hand and a very small brush, these enamels are painted into each compartment. These Hatho fine sable brushes are perfect for small details, and the handles have an ergonomic design, which helps me work comfortably for long periods. Enamel is applied in layers, and before firing, the colors remain quite dull, so this is where the artist’s knowledge of their palette is vital. 


Hand Painting with Enamels

Enamels are meticulously applied in layers within the compartments using small brushes. Foils are sometimes added before the enamels to give a reflective shimmer.

Step 5: Firing the Enamel

After applying the enamel, the pendant is placed in a kiln or oven, where it undergoes high-temperature firing. This process melts the enamel, allowing it to flow and settle into the compartments, creating a smooth, glassy surface. Artists apply subsequent layers and complete additional firings to achieve the perfect mix of colors.

Kiln Firing

High-temperature kiln firing melts the enamel, creating a smooth surface. Multiple firings may be necessary to get the desired color and depth.


Step 6: Cooling and Polishing

After firing the pendant is carefully removed from the kiln and the enamel solidifies as it cools. The piece is then polished to a brilliant shine, revealing the stunning colors and intricate patterns beneath the glassy surface. The polishing process may involve gentle abrasives and a careful hand to avoid damaging the enamel.

 Step 7: Final Touches

The final steps involve adding extra embellishments, such as gemstones, or applying a protective coating to ensure the enamel's enduring brilliance. Each pendant is then attached to a chain ready to find its forever home with someone who appreciates the beauty of nature as much as we do.

For 43 years, I've called western North Carolina home, a place where the boundless beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains never ceases to inspire. It's here that I immerse myself in the art of enamels, endeavoring to replicate the mesmerizing hues of this majestic landscape. Check out our Cloisonné Mountain Landscape Collection on our website and carry a token of nature with you wherever you roam.

Carry nature's
artistry with you.

Cloisonné Mountain Landscape Collection

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Blue Ridge Mountain Collection

The allure of the mountains in a pendant.

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