Enamel Jewelry and Other Objects

My Enamel

My Enamel

I traveled to China a few years back and came home with an abundance of enameled goods – earrings, vases and a little box that’s too big for a pill box but too small to hold much else. It’s so pretty, though, I couldn’t resist. Recently I acquired a pretty enameled Hidalgo ring, which had me wondering just how they achieve the rich colors and designs of enameled jewelry and other objects.

What is enamel?
With a little research I learned that the enameled look is achieved by fusing powdered, colored glass to a surface, usually metal. Other surfaces can be used if they can take the heat, but metal is by far the most common surface used in enameling – in particular gold, silver or copper. The most common types of enameling used in jewelry applications are cloisonné, champlevé, basse-taille, painted enamel and grisaille.

Cloisonné Enamel
Cloisonné is one of the oldest types of enameling and one of the most popular for jewelry applications. In the cloisonné method, narrow strips of metal wire are soldered or glued to the base metal, creating cells. The cells are then filled with the different colored enamels selected for that jewelry design, giving the jewelry a stained glass window look. Cloisonné jewelry is popular in China and is commonly found in Chinatown gift shops around the world.




Champlevé Enamel
In the champlevé method, recesses are cut out of the base metal and the colorful enamels are placed in the recesses. Cloisonné is preferred for jewelry, while champlevé is more commonly seen on larger pieces like vases, although it is sometimes used for jewelry as well.

basse-taille enamel


Basse-taille Enamel
The basse-taille technique is similar to champleve in that recesses are cut from the metal and filled with enamel, however in basse-taille pieces a design in relief is cut into the base of the metal. When the enamel is placed into the recesses, the top of the enamel is even, but the relief design of the base can be seen because the varying depths lead to shadowing and gradations in the enamel.

painted limoges enamel

Painted Limoges Enamel

Painted (Limoges) Enamel
Painted enamel is also known as Limoges enamel. In this method designers use a convex copper plate for the base and then coat it with white enamel, which is then fired. Afterwards, they draw the design onto the white enamel and apply the colors with a brush or palette knife. In the painted enamel method there are no walls between the colors, so they must be carefully applied to avoid running together when fired. To achieve depth of color, many layers of enamel must be applied and the piece must be fired after each application.



Grisaille Enamel
Grisaille is a form of painted enamel that uses dark and neutral colors to achieve a monochromatic effect. In this case the base is coated with black enamel, fired, then topped with a coat of white enamel and fired once again. This leaves a grey surface which is then painted with other colors of enamel, usually brown, purple, gray and black. This method of enameling is most often seen in brooches and pendants, but is also used in earrings and other forms of jewelry.

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Tie Clips

tie clipTie clips are not only attractive accessories, but also fill the purpose of keeping a man’s necktie from shifting about. First used in the 20th century, tie clips have remained popular, most likely due to their practicality.

A tie clip, also called a tie bar, attaches the tie to the man’s shirt so that it will lay straight rather than moving out of place. Since the tie is often the only splash of color or pattern in a man’s outfit, it catches the eye. If the tie looks rumpled, off kilter or bears stains from dipping into the soup at lunch, it detracts from the wearer’s appearance. The detail of a tie clip lends the man a neater, pulled-together look.

Tie clips have an advantage over tie pins in that while both hold a tie in place, the tie pin does this by piercing the fabric of the tie, which can damage the tie over time. Men with costly ties may hesitate to use tie pins with them when tie clips achieve the same purpose without damaging the tie.

Batman tie clipThere are many different styles of clips, with designs ranging from elegant gold and sapphire tie clips to fun, novelty golf club or Batman tie clips for more casual functions. There are costly tie clips, usually crafted from gems and precious metals, as well as styles for the budget-minded tie wearer.

Tie clips make great gifts for birthdays, Father’s Day, Christmas or other gift giving occasions. They can be chosen to match the personality of the wearer, and most men own at least one tie, usually several. Natty dressers might appreciate a matching pair of cufflinks to complement the tie clip. Tie clips can be found in the accessories section of men’s department at department stores, and there are a multitude of options online at websites like Amazon, Overstock or specialty sites.

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Bib Necklaces

bib necklace
Forget the slim and dainty gold chain and opt instead for an attention-getting bib necklace. The bib necklace takes its name from the way it falls high on the chest, much like a baby’s bib or a shirt bib. Bib necklaces are generally shorter than traditional necklaces and are fashioned from a multitude of gems and/ or beads layered together to create a striking effect.

jlh bib necklaceOne popular aspect of these necklaces is their versatility. Bib necklaces work the year round, spicing up a tank top in summer and adding color to a neutral sweater in winter. This accessory is a great way to add some zip to a dull outfit or create a focal point for your look. Bib necklaces have been spotted everywhere from the office to the street, and celebrities like Beyonce and Jennifer Love Hewitt have adopted this look.

beyonce bib necklace
When you want to update your look but can’t afford to spend a ton on new clothes, a few well-chosen accessories can do wonders. A bib-necklace is the type of accessory that can change the entire tone of an outfit, adding that touch that takes it from blah to memorable.

Styles range from pricey versions made from gold and gemstones to inexpensive fashion versions made with plastic baubles. That means there’s a bib necklace for just about any budget, and any stylish individual can rock this trend.

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Italian Charm Bracelets

Italian charm bracelets
When I first saw a reference to Italian charm bracelets, it piqued my interest. I’d loved charm bracelets ever since I was a girl, when my great-aunt gave me a sterling silver charm bracelet engraved with my name and birthdate and sporting a charm that looked just like my little lab-mix pup. I think charm bracelets are a great way to wear a pretty piece of jewelry that expresses your own personality through your choice of charms. But I’d never heard of Italian charm bracelets, and vowed to learn more.

italian charm loveIt turns out that the main difference between a traditional charm bracelet and and Italian charm bracelet is that rather than dangling from a chain, the charms are flat links that attach to a stretchy bracelet.

Italian charm bracelets were first developed in 1987 in the village of Sesto Florentino, Italy by jeweler Paolo Gensini, founder of the jewelry firm Nomination. Called the composable charm bracelet, the bracelets were intended to appeal to both men and women. The bracelet quickly grew in popularity, helped along by professional soccer players who sported the charm bracelets. Other companies began producing the bracelets, which came to be known as Italian charm bracelets. By the 1990s the craze had spread to the United States, and today the bracelets and their charms are easily obtainable in shops and online.

italian charm photosBuilding a Bracelet
The first step to building an Italian charm bracelet is selecting a starter bracelet. Starter bracelets come with blank links that owners can pop off and replace with more personalized charms. They are available in small, medium and large sizes, with 17, 18 and 19 links respectively. After the bracelet is selected, purchase a few charms to replace the blank starter links. Bracelet owners can fill the bracelet all at once, or carefully select charms a few at a time. They can also switch charms on and off the bracelet for variety.

italian charm photosCharms
The charms come in a dazzling variety of styles, materials and prices. There are stainless steel charms as well as charms fashioned from 14k gold. Enameled styles are popular, as are engraved links. Charms can depict a favorite hobby or particular interest, feature the photos of loved ones, boast a colorful birthstone, spell out a name, serve as a medic alert or simply show a pretty flower or color.

Charm Companies
Nomination, the original Italian charm bracelet company, still produces some of the better quality options along with firms like Zoppini and , however there are numerous firms out there making fun charms for Italian charm bracelets.

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Amber Rings

There was a time when dinosaurs walked the earth, pterodactyls swooped through the air and resin flowed from the trees around them. The dinosaurs and pterodactyls are long gone, but the resin hardened and fossilized and today adorns our hands in amber rings.

At times when the resin was soft and flowing, it trapped insects in its path, which became preserved as the amber hardened. Today we call them inclusions in the amber. With their fascinating peek into prehistoric times, amber stones that have inclusions are highly coveted.

Amber Sources
Most of the amber you’ll find on the market today hails from the area of the Baltic Sea, although it is found in regions as widespread as Burma, North America, Romania and Italy. The Dominican Republic is a popular source for the stones since a large number of inclusions are found amongst amber mined on the island.

Amber Colors in Rings
Amber stones are so frequently discovered in shades of dark yellow that the name amber has become synonymous with that color. Nevertheless, amber can be found in an array of colors, including rust, brown, green, blue and black. When judging amber quality, clear, uniform stones are considered more desirable than cloudy stones or stones with bubbles.

Amber Hardness
As gemstones go, amber is on the soft end of the scale. The Mohs scale is used to rate gems for hardness on a scale from one to ten. Diamond, the hardest known natural substance, is a ten on the Mohs scale. Amber comes in at between 2 and 2.5, meaning it is one of the softest gems.

Caring for Amber Rings
Amber’s relative softness means that it is more prone to scratching and damage than other, harder stones and needs special scare. Amber rings in particular are likely to be jostled and bumped around in the course of normal wear, but take care to remove your ring before engaging in activities such as sports or housework to decrease that likelihood. It’s also a good idea to remove the ring before using household chemicals like cleaning supplies or hairspray, substances which can harm the stone. When not wearing the ring, do not toss it into a jewelry box drawer where it can be scratched by sharp prongs or other gemstones. First wrap it in a soft cloth, or use the box’s ring holders.

The Amber Room
One of history’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries is that of the disappearance of the famed amber room. The room consisted of wall panels fashioned from amber, mirrors and gold leaf and was created in the 18th century for the Prussian king, but was subsequently given as a gift to Russian tsar Peter the Great, who had it installed in the Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg. There it remained until World War II, when the invading Nazi army stole it and carried it to Konigsburg, from where it disappeared. While some experts suspect that it was destroyed in a fire at the end of the war, no one knows for sure what became of the Amber Room.

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Cross Pendants

Lovely and meaningful, cross pendants are ideal for those who wish to show pride in their Christianity. This simple design is at once a symbol of faith and a beautiful piece of religious jewelry, appropriate for every day wear.

The origin of pendant jewelry lies deep in history. To wit, artwork created thousands of years ago in ancient Greece and Egypt regularly depict people adorned with pendant jewelry. By definition, pendants hang from something, perhaps a necklace, or maybe a bracelet or earrings. Most cross pendant wearers suspend the pendant from a necklace, whether it’s a metal chain, a leather cord or some other type of necklace.

Emerald Cross Pendant

While a simple cross pendant in 14 karat gold or sterling silver is perhaps the most common, any number of variations exist on this design. They can be thicker or slimmer, set with gemstones, or engraved with flowers. They can be made from colored glass, stone, wood or other materials. They can be small and simpler or ornately decorated.

The cross is sacred to followers of the Christian faith because the Bible state’s that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that the people’s sins would be forgiven by God.

Celtic Cross Pendant

In addition to the standard cross pendant, there are a few different cross designs:

Rose Cross – An elegant variation is the Rose Cross, which adds a single rose at the intersection of the two lines of the cross

Celtic Cross – This cross originated in the Celtic lands like Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and is particularly popular with those who wish to show their Celtic heritage in addition to their faith. The Celtic high cross is frequently inscribed with Celtic symbols and features a circle surrounding the intersection of the two lines of the cross.

Maltese Cross Pendant

Maltese Cross – The Knights of Malta marched into battle adorned with this cross during the crusades. This designs departs from the original in that the four arms are all the same length and are wider on the outer ends and narrower where they meet in the middle. Some variations have v-shaped indents in each end, others do not.

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Titanium Engagement Rings

Strong and beautiful, titanium engagement rings are the choice for more and more engaged couples. Not only are they scratch and damage resistant and lightweight, but they are hypoallergenic.

Titanium History
Titanium was discovered in the 1790’s and named for the fierce mythological Titans by a German chemist named Martin Klaproth. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that a process was developed that could reduce titanium to a usable metal form. Since then the metal has been prized for having the greatest strength to weight ratio of any known metal and has been used for such varied applications as aircraft, golf clubs, automobiles, baseball bats and jewelry.

Strength and Weight
Titanium engagement rings are known for their strength and durability, desirable qualities in a piece of jewelry that many women wear every day. They are resistant to dents, scratches and other damage that can occur with regular wear. Because Titanium is lighter than other metals, many jewelry lovers find it more comfortable to wear.

Titanium is the shade of white metals like white gold or platinum, which are coveted in engagement rings because they accentuate the color of a white diamond, rather than throwing an undesirable yellow hue on it like yellow gold can.

Creating Titanium Rings
While rings made from traditional metals are usually heated, rolled and soldered into the desired shape, the strength of titanium makes it more practical to begin with a solid block of titanium and then cut the ring out of it.

While titanium offers many advantages in jewelry applications, it has a few drawbacks. One disadvantage of titanium rings is that they are difficult to resize should the owner wish to do so at some point in the future.

Other Titanium Jewelry
If you fall in love with your titanium engagement ring and want to find other pieces to coordinate with it, you’ll be pleased to learn there are all kinds of titanium jewelry on the market. Look for titanium rings, pendants, necklaces, belly-button rings, cufflinks and bracelets to add to your jewelry box.

Are titanium engagement rings impossible to cut through?
Not at all. As titanium engagement rings have become more popular among brides and grooms, a rumor has made the rounds that if the wearer’s finger swells to the point that the ring must be removed in order to avoid cutting off circulation, a titanium band is impossible to cut through. This is not true. According to snopes.com http://www.snopes.com/weddings/horrors/titanium.asp , titanium rings can be removed with a boltcutter or jeweler’s saw, and so are safe to use as wedding jewelry. A variety of titanium alloys are produced and it’s important the right titanium is used for jewelry. Aircraft grade titanium, for example, is much more difficult to saw through and should be avoided.

Fun fact:
Titanium dioxide is responsible for the coveted star shapes found in star sapphires and star rubies

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Le Vian Jewelry

Le Vian
Worn by everyone from housewives to A-list superstars, Le Vian jewelry has mass appeal. With generations of experience in jewelry making, the Le Vian family has created a company that is known for quality, style and innovation.

The Le Vian family’s love affair with jewelry spans centuries, stretching back to 16th century Persia, where they built a reputation for their handiwork with beads, enamel, engraving, gold and silver. By the 18th century the family’s elaborate designs had caught the eye of royalty. In fact, the emperor had such faith in the family that he entrusted them with the care of jewels he’d captured from India, including the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond, which today can be found at London’s Tower of London, one of the Queen of England’s crown jewels.

Le Vian in the United States
The Le Vian Company in the United States was founded by one Abdulrahim Ephraim LeVian in 1950. LeVian was born in Mashad, Persia – present day Iran – in 1922 and founded the company after emigrating to New York City. He had substantial business acumen, a strong work ethic and a highly developed sense of what people wanted in their jewelry. He believed in quality and value, and wasn’t afraid to take risks with his jewelry offerings. LeVian passed away in 2000, and his heirs continue to run the company,

Le Vian Today
Le Vian jewelry is marked by its commitment to quality and its use of novel gems, metals and cuts in its designs. Le Vian has introduced new gem cutting styles like the Parisian Honeycomb, worked with Tanzanite when it was largely unknown and crafted jewelry with metals like Black Rhodium to better accentuate certain gems. The company almost singlehandedly created a market for brown diamonds, previously considered of inferior quality, by branding them “chocolate diamonds” and creating a successful marketing campaign around them.

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Chocolate diamond rings

Sparkly, brown and beautiful, chocolate diamonds belong to the “fancy” family of diamonds, which includes colors like blue, pink, yellow, green, black and more. Here we aim to answer some of your questions about chocolate diamond rings.

Are they really diamonds?
Chocolate diamonds are, indeed, true diamonds.

Is the chocolate color natural?
Uhh… maybe. Brown diamonds occur in nature, but synthetic brown diamonds are also available on the jewelry market. The chocolate color can also be achieved through treating the diamond. Most of the chocolate diamonds currently on the market have been color-treated. As one might expect, naturally brown diamonds are worth more than treated or synthetic ones. A reputable jeweler should tell you whether the stone in the chocolate diamond ring you’re considering is natural, treated or synthetic.

How does the diamond get that color naturally?
There are a couple of ways that the diamond could become brown. Diamonds that have been irradiated, perhaps by uranium ore located with the diamond. However, when this occurs in nature the color is usually just on the surface of the diamond. Experts suspect that diamonds with a rich, natural brown color have lattice deformations that create the rich shade.

Where did the name come from?
The jewelry firm Le Vian coined the term chocolate diamonds to describe rich brown diamonds. The term is used in the company’s marketing.

Are brown diamond rings more valuable or less valuable than white?
Truth is, throughout most of history brown diamonds were considered inferior gems and were not used for jewelry. Many diamond mines produce a large amount of brown diamonds, however, and in the 1980s a public relations push sought to make good quality brown diamonds more desirable in the eyes of jewelry buyers. Color is not the sole determinant of value in a diamond, but if all other factors are the same, white diamonds are more expensive than chocolate. Generally speaking, you can get more diamond for your money if you go with a chocolate diamond.

Is clarity important in chocolate diamonds?
Clarity is an important determinant of value in any diamond. Buyers should be aware that some jewelers sell chocolate diamond rings with poor clarity, hoping buyers will admire the pretty chocolate shade and ignore the cloudiness.

What is the Golden Jubilee Diamond?
The world’s largest cut diamond is a chocolate diamond. The original stone, discovered in a South African mine in 1985, came in at 755.5 carats and was cut down to a 545 carat diamond. The stone was presented to the king of Thailand for the 50th anniversary of his crowning, and dubbed the Golden Jubilee Diamond.

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Balfour Class Rings

Balfour Rings

For generations, high school students, college students and military personnel have chosen to remember their school days with souvenir rings from Balfour. Balfour supplies rings to both men and women and create rings for high school, college, the military and championship rings.

 History of Balfour

It was the year 1913 when Lloyd Balfour launched his business selling commemorative rings at fraternities and sororities at U.S colleges. The first shots of World War I were taken the following year, and Balfour began producing rings for members of the military, making them a part of his business offerings even after the war was over in 1918. Over time rings for all college grads, not just members of the Greek system, were added, as well as high school rings. Alloy rings were added in the 1970s when the price of gold rose precipitously. The product list expanded to include yearbooks, invitations, key rings, pins and more.

High School

High school students purchasing a Balfour ring are given several options from which to choose, including several choices for the more budget-minded. The buyer can choose the color of the stone as well as the cut, and can opt for white gold, yellow gold, or a less costly alloy metal. The student can choose to have her name or a message engraved on the interior surface of the ring. The sides of the ring can be decorated with emblems representing the student’s favorite activities like drama club and soccer, special interests, flags, zodiac signs and more.


Like high school rings, college rings are available in a variety of metals, stone colors and emblems for interests and activities, as well as the student’s major, if desired.


Balfour designs rings for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Like high school and college rings, military rings are offered with a choice of metals and stone color. Ring buyers can personalize the ring with emblems for their military unit or branch as well as items like crosses, flags and helicopters.


From Stanley Cup winners to high school wrestling state victors, Balfour has provided rings for champions for over 60 years.


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