The Art of plique-à-jour

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 907 and 908 in the 13 March jewellery auction are two brooches showing examples of this fine art. Lot 907 depicts a brightly coloured fly with a gem set body and red, yellow and green wings. Lot 908 is a pastel coloured dragonfly also with a gem set body but with blue, green and lilac wings. This perfectly depicts real dragonfly wings that are brightly coloured and have visible veins running through them. Each estimated at £50 - £80, these lots feature alongside three other plique-à-jour brooches which truly stand out due to their bold colours.


Viewing for these lots and over 140 others commences on Wednesday 11 March at 12pm.


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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