Cloisonné Urns: A Testament to Artisanal Craftsmanship

Two Cloisonne urnsCloisonné urns are some of the most intricately beautiful and striking urns on the market. They are an amazingly difficult, time consuming detail to have on an urn yet are so worth the effort. Cloisonné urns come in various different colours and patterns and are a solid choice for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one. They make a great choice as it is a truly unique and special form of art with a lot of history behind the process. Placing their remains in one of these urns is a beautiful way to help their journey into the afterlife. This article will discuss what exactly Cloisonné urns are, a bit about their history and other facts that make these urns so special. 

What is cloisonné

Cloisonné is a decorative technique in which enamel, glass, or gemstones are separated by strips of flattened wire placed edgeways on a metal backing. The wire used in Cloisonné is usually silver or gold. Cloisonné is essentially a method of creating incredibly detailed designs which have three dimensional, thick silver or gold lines that look absolutely stunning on an urn. The spaces between the lines are usually filled with an enamel which in turn allows it to have many different vibrant colours in its design. While Cloisonné is a French word, it is a technique that has been found to be used by many different cultures all the way from western Europe to China. 

History of Cloisonné

Cloisonné is an ancient technique that has been around since 3000 B.C. It is thought that this method originated from the Middle East. Cloisonné originally used the metal wire inlays to hold precious gems, usually for crowns and other ornate items. Enamel usage was used to imitate the look of these gems, but now has become considered as another valid form of the Cloisonné technique. The earliest found usage of the enamel Cloisonné technique was a group of Mycenaean rings found from graves in Cyprus, dating back to the 12th century B.C. 

Garnet Cloisonné

The Eastern Roman Empire perfected a unique form of the Cloisonné technique, known as Garnet Cloisonné which ended up spreading to surrounding cultures. This technique was found to be prevalent in the migration period of the “barbarian” peoples of Europe who used gemstones, especially red garnets, glass, and enamel with small, thick-walled cloisons. Red and gold are a nice contrast of colours, and with garnets being a symbol of Christ, it's no wonder such a technique became so popular in the region dominated by Christianity. 

The modern method

Cloisonné nowadays usually has the work separated by different parties. An item deemed suitable for the technique is usually acquired through a third party. Copper is the most affordable metal to use for this process and along with its malleable properties leads it to become the most common choice for artisans of the modern day. Soldering used to be the main method of joining the cloison wires together, but has fallen out of favour due to the potential of discoloration and bubbling of the enamel. Nowadays, the base metal is fired with a thin layer of clear enamel, after which the cloison is glued to the enamel's surface with gum tragacanth. Once the gum has dried, it is fired again to fuse the wire to the enamel and the gum is burnt off leaving no residue. 

This leads to 3 different styles of Cloisonné, namely concave, convex and flat. Concave Cloisonné happens when the cloison is not completely filled, leading the molten enamel to curve up against the surface which produces a concave pattern. Convex is quite the opposite, in which the molten enamel is overfilled leading to slightly rounded moulds. Finally there is flat, the most common, in which the enamel is ground to a smooth surface and polished, giving it a refined and clean look. 

Cloisonné is a very ancient and proud technique that has been employed by generations of artisans. From the Eastern Roman Empire popularising it, to the Mycenaeans using the first enamel technique, Cloisonné has reached many different times and cultures. In modern times it remains a classic and distinguished look and is a way to make your loved ones resting place incredibly beautiful. As Australia's largest urn store, Eternal Urns has an extensive range of the best quality cloisonné urns available, so check out our range today.