The Art of plique-à-jour, April 2021

Cloisonné is a technique that may make you think of heavily decorated bowls and vases originating from China that can command huge prices at auction however, in antiquity, the technique was mostly used for jewellery. The ancient art of using wire sections inlaid with enamel were used to decorate brooches and necklaces for kings and queens of Ancient Egypt. By the 6th century AD, the Byzantine Empire had created a new technique based on cloisonné however the object would have no backing material allowing the light to shine through it much like a stained glass window. 


Plique-à-jour is designed to produce the effect of a stained glass window in miniature form. Bright and colourful stained glass windows provide a stark contrast to the dark masonry and pointed arches often found in gothic architecture much like plique-à-jour items contrast against clothing or the body. The use of translucent coloured enamel inlaid between sections of wire often mimics insects due to their brightly coloured wings and bodies. 

Lots 1324 and 1387 in the 7 April Jewellery Auction are two examples of this fine art. Lot 1324, a necklace, depicts a brightly coloured butterfly with a marcasite and pearl body and red, yellow and green wings. Lot 1387 is another brightly coloured butterfly, this time in the form of a brooch, also with a gem set body but with purple, green and orange wings. This perfectly depicts real butterfly wings that are brightly coloured and have visible veins running through them. 


To view the Jewellery catalogue click here >>

Amy Cameron


McTear’s sells more jewellery than any other traditional auction house in the dedicated jewellery auctions that take place twice monthly, run concurrently live online on a platform that attracts six million visitors annually from over 120 countries worldwide. 

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