cloisonne jewellery

Cloisonne enamel jewellery – a future vintage collectable?



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).

vintage cloisonne enamel brid earrings parrot jewelry

Cloisonne enamel parrot bird earrings. Cloisonne jewellery is noted for it’s use of rich jewel-like colours and adorably fun designs

Vintage cloisonne ring flower enamel jewelry

Cloisonne ring flower enamel jewelry

vintage 1980s cloisonne white enamel crescent pendant bib necklace jewellery

Cloisonne white enamel crescent pendant necklace. Dating cloisonne jewellery is difficult and can rarely be done by the enamel work itself; for this necklace I also studied the clasp and hinges to the necklace, as well as the metal chain used, which indicated an approximate date of circa late 1980s.

cloisonne hinged blue modern bangle enamel jewellery

Modern circa 2012 cloisonne hinged blue modern bangle. Note the pearl-like gloopy swirls of blue enamel – this a new technique and not seen on pre-200os enamel work. Also, the solid gold-tone metal interior is typical of modern post-2000s designs.

vintage 80s white cloisonne enamel fan brooch flower butterfly jewelry

This white cloisonne enamel fan brooch is unusual as it has a 3-D effect where the butterfly and red flower have been layered on top of the fan.

vintage 1980s owl brooch cloisonne enamel cute jewellery

Cloisonne owl brooch … sooo cute!

vintage 80s cloisonne enamel dolphin hoop earrings jewelry

Cloisonne enamel dolphin hoop earrings. The designs and subjects used in cloisonne jewellery are almost endless, which might make it very attractive to future collectors.

Vintage 1980s cloisonne enamel flower necklace earrings set parure black beige jewellery

Circa early 2000s cloisonne black and beige blush enamel flower necklace earrings set. The use of the black fabric rope ‘chain’ on the necklace was popular during the late 1990s and early 2000s

vintage 1980s black red cloisonne enamel butterfly clamper bangle jewellery

Striking black and red cloisonne enamel butterfly bangle, circa late 1990s/ early 2000s. This type of ‘clamper bangle’ has a spring hinge which opens and snaps back over the wrist. Recent cloisonne bangles don’t tend to have this mechanism, so in years to come it may help us to date them

Vintage 1980s cloisonne enamel owl brooch jewellery

Adorable beige and red cloisonne enamel owl brooch

vintage blue cloisonne enamel flower scarf clip jewellery

Cloisonne blue and pink enamel flower scarf clip

vintage cloisonne enamel clamper bangle jewellery repair

When buying pre-owned cloisonne jewelry, watch out for damage missing pieces of enamel which will detract from the value of jewellery (this goes for any type of enamel jewellery whether modern or old).