I love cloisonne jewellery dating from the 1980s to present day. The designs are adorable, the colour’s so vivid, and the workmanship is exquisite. It’s an area of jewellery which is obviously modern in ‘vintage jewellery’ terms, but I’m always on the look out for what areas might be collectable in the future, and I’ve a hunch this may possibly be one of them (note, my opinion only – not to be taken as advise!)
Cloisonne is a type of enamel work which involves soldering wire-work onto a metal base to create shapes (called cloisons), then filling them in with coloured glass enamel power and which are finally fired in a hot kiln, creating the enamel pictures we see. Though many countries lay claim to its ancient origins, it is China and Japan that are probably the most well known large scale creators of this work.
Dating any type of cloisonne jewellery is tricky, and if a piece is a possible antique then it’s best done by an expert who specializes in the technique. The cloisonne jewellery that I’m interested in dates from the 1980s onwards, and is bold and fun in it’s design.
Here are some tips for buying closionne jewellery:
Check the metal on the back of the jewellery for green patches – cloisonne jewellery is often made from a copper base meaning it can be prone to the dreaded verdigris, an ‘infection’ to the metal which is difficult to remove and can spread to other jewellery. Verdigris is a total pain to deal with, and it’s best avoided at all costs.
Check over your item for any missing, cracked or damaged parts of enamel work. This detracts from the value of cloisonne jewellery massively and again, is best avoided as any damage cannot be fixed, and will only get worse over time.
Thick gloopy/creamy, swirly opalescent or pearl-like enamel work is modern and wasn’t used on jewellery that was made before the 2000s (see 4th picture down of the modern blue bangle to see what I mean).
I’m always checking out modern high street costume jewellery, and to be honest I’m often not particularly impressed; a lot of it looks cheap, feels cheap, is cheap, and has little imagination to the design.
There are exceptions of course. ‘Next’ have some lovely, good quality jewellery, as does BHS. But for me, one of the best is Marks and Spencer – even if you don’t like the clothes, the jewellery is well worth checking out.
Being a vintage jewellery lover, I spend a lot of my time rummaging through boxes of used jewellery from auctions and second hand shops. And you can always tell an M and S piece straight away, due to the high quality of design and workmanship. M and S rhinestones and pastes are nearly always made from heavy glass and securely prong set, which for me is one of the most important things a good jewellery design should have. Plastic rhinestones look so cheap, and don’t last. Glass rhinestones sparkle beautifully and will last for many years, and prong settings mean the stones won’t fall out.
I often wonder what will be the vintage jewellery collectables of the future. Marks and Spencer jewellery certainly ticks all the right boxes. Who knows? I wish I had a crystal ball!