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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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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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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Cape Cod Jewelry

Cape Cod jewelry is characterized by its elegant simplicity. Gold, sterling silver, a ball, maybe a few twists – these are the elements used to create this iconic style of jewelry. Those unfamiliar with Cape Cod jewelry might envision, rope bracelets, anchor pendants – perhaps a seagull in there somewhere? But though this style takes its name from the famous seaside holiday spot, there’s nary a boat or fish design to be seen.

It all began with the Cape Cod bracelet, designed by the late John Carey. The story goes that a customer came into his shop, Eden Hand Arts in Dennis, Massachusetts, seeking a bracelet that wouldn’t fall off. In response, Carey designed the Cape Cod bracelet: a band with screw ball tops on either end. The style quickly caught on, helped out by actress Amy Jo Johnson, a Dennis native who wore the bracelet on an episode of the old hit TV show Felicity.

Jewelry lovers that want an authentic bracelet must go in person to the Eden Hand Arts store, where they’ll be fitted for a bracelet. They are not available through the store’s website.

Fortunately for those of us not planning a trip to Massachusetts any time soon, there are plenty of imitations available.

While the Cape Cod bracelet started the trend, other types of Cape Cod style jewelry are also available.

  • Cape Cod earrings are usually hoops with a ball in the middle, or sometimes drop drop earrings.
  • Cape Cod necklaces often feature one or more balls on a snake chain, which resembles the metal band of the original bracelet
  • Cape Cod rings usually feature a solid band and a ball where a gemstone would normally be.
  • Cape Cod anklets frequently use one or more balls mounted on a snake chain, but sometimes on leather.

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Silver Rings

My favorite color is black, which is a trial to my children around Mother’s Day, when they pour their hearts into an art project at school as a gift to me, and the teacher asks them “What’s your mom’s favorite color?” as her hand hovers over ribbons in pink, purple, yellow and green to tie around the gift, and they have to say black, and the teacher gives them a strange look. Sometimes they lie.

But I love black and wearing black, and black looks fabulous with sterling silver jewelry, so I have a nice collection of silver rings with colorful gemstones to suit my mood. A garnet ring with a celtic trinity knot design is my favorite.

Benefits of Silver Rings
There are so many reasons to choose sterling silver rings.
As most fine jewelry lovers know, the price of gold has shot up over the past few years, so that even the type of small, simple pieces that were once relatively inexpensive can be quite costly. Silver rings allow us to own genuine precious and semi-precious gemstone rings without breaking the bank. Moreover, silver won’t crack within a few years of use like some metals used in costume jewelry. For someone who likes to wear her jewelry 24-hours a day, such as myself, silver is a wonderful metal because it can be worn in the shower. I tend to stay away from silver plate because it’s just not durable enough for me.

Where to Find Silver Rings
Because they are less costly than gold, sterling silver rings are usually found outside of fine jewelry stores. Try the jewelry counter at department stores like Target and Kohl’s, as well as accessory shops like Claire’s. Gift shops often carry silver rings and toe rings – especially in tourist towns – and jewelry artisans frequently display them at art fairs. A multitude of jewelry websites carry them, but as always, be certain that you are dealing with a reputable site before buying your sterling silver jewelry.

Tarnish and Silver Rings
One drawback to sterling silver is that it tarnishes fairly easily, although I think that a touch of tarnish gives the piece a nice old-fashioned look. Regular wear helps keep the tarnish away, as well as storing the ring in a tarnish-prevention bag made for that purpose. Humidity leads to more tarnish, so try to keep the ring in a dry, cool space. Polishing cloths or silver polish solution can be used to remove tarnish once it has set in.

Caring for Sterling Silver Rings
Because silver is a softer metal, it can be scratched when careless tossed into a jewelry box alongside sharp prongs and earring posts. The tarnish bags serve the dual purpose of protecting the ring from tarnish and from damage from other jewelry. Jewelry box ring grooves can also keep the silver from being scratched.

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Vera Wang Jewelry

About Vera Wang

Vera Wang was born in 1949 in New York City, the child of Shanghai natives who had emigrated from China during the 1940s. Growing up, Wang attended New York City’s prestigious Chapin School and was an accomplished figure skater, even competing in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Art History at Sarah Lawrence College, and embarked on a career as a fashion editor at Vogue magazine. After leaving Vogue she worked for renowned fashion designer Ralph Lauren before embarking on her own career as a fashion designer.

Wang began her line in 1990 with a small shop in the Carlyle Hotel in New York specializing in sophisticated wedding gowns. Her innovative designs became a hit with fashion-conscious brides-to-be, and have been worn by such well-known celebrities as Mariah Carey, Uma Thurman and Victoria Beckham, to name just a few, and featured on the hit show Sex and the City. She soon expanded her collection to include women’s wear, housewares, shoes, fragrance and jewelry.

Vera Wang Fine Jewelry and Rosy Blue

In 2004 Vera Wang entered into an agreement with Rosy Blue Fine, a company specializing in diamonds and fine jewelry, to produce her line of bridal jewelry intended to complement her sought-after wedding gown designs. The line included wedding bands and diamond engagement rings. At the same time, Rosy Blue Fine and Vera Wang worked together to produce a line of luxury fashion jewelry. Prices ranged from a few hundred for a simple wedding band to a couple hundred thousand for more intricate pieces. The partnership ended in 2007 in the face of a challenging economy.

Simply Vera Vera Wang

In 2007 Vera Wang entered into an agreement with Kohl’s to license a premium lifestyle line of low priced clothing, housewares and jewelry with the Vera Wang touch. The line includes earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings, most priced in the $20 – $40 range. Simply Vera Vera Wang jewelry is available in Kohl’s department stores or on the company’s website. Kohl’s will begin carrying Simply Vera Vera Wang bridal jewelry in 2012.

Vera Wang Fine Jewelry and Zales

In 2011 Wang made a second foray into the wedding jewelry market and entered into a partnership with Zales jewelers to create a line of engagement rings and wedding rings. The move came on the heels of a partnership with David’s Bridal Shop to produce Vera Wang bridesmaids gowns in the $200 dollar range.

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Reminiscing: Sterling Silver Bracelets

When I was a little girl I received a pair of silver bracelets from my aunt. She was a happy-go-lucky sort of lady, the Auntie Mame of our family. She had married two well-off men and was always jetting off to places like Greece, the Caribbean and other deliciously exotic sounding places.

She had been in the Caribbean, and upon returning sent me two slim sterling silver bracelets, with little fists on the end. My mother let me wear them for my first communion when I was seven, and then they were put away in my little pink jewelry box with the ballerina that spun to “Chim-chim-cheree” when I wound it up. Every so often I would pull them out and look at them, then beg my mother to let me wear them. But I was too young, I was told. I would lose them. Anything other than tiny gold earrings was tacky for little girls. So after a while, I forgot about them.

When I was about twenty-two I was cleaning out my childhood desk and found the jewelry box tucked away in a corner. I opened it and smiled at the collection of plastic rings from dentists offices and gumball machines, macrame necklaces with gold and yellow beads and various pins from the girl scouts. I spotted a little gold cardboard box, and opened it, wondering what might be inside.

There were the forbidden silver bracelets, tarnished, but still beautiful. I put them on immediately, wondering how I could have completely forgotten something that I had once coveted so much. I ran downstairs to proudly display them to my mother, gloating “Nah, nah, I can wear these now!! Ha!” She thought that was pretty funny. I wore them for months afterwards, and to this day I often pull them out of my velvet lined, mahogany jewelry box. No one seeing me in my silver bracelets knows that they are really a cherished link to my childhood.

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Beaded Bracelets

Beaded bracelets are a way to add color to a neutrally toned outfit, show a bit of personality or simply show off a pretty accessory. Since prehistoric times people have worn beads as ornaments, although in those days they were thought to have magical properties as well. Some choose big, bright, chunky beads while others go for delicate seed beads. It really depends on the fashion, the occasion and the personal preference of the wearer. Beads can be made from materials as inexpensive as plastic or costly as salt-water pearls or cabochon gems. Beads are made from wood, gold or colorful glass. Beaded bracelets are easy to find, and are sold everywhere from the drugstore jewelry rack to fine jewelry counters.

Beaded Charm Bracelets
Beaded charm bracelets are currently trendy and seen on wrists the world over. The beaded charm bracelet is a marriage of traditional beaded bracelets and traditional charm bracelets, where the owner’s choice of charms creates a bracelet that is a unique expression of her personality and style. Pandora bracelets and Italian charm bracelets are two leading styles in this trend. Owners string together beads decorated in different styles to create a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. They could be in fun shapes that represent a favorite hobby, gem studded, crystal or plain silver or gold spacers. There are myriad bead options and bracelet owners can create a fun and funky piece or one of dazzling beauty.

Make-Your-Own Beaded Bracelets
A few years ago I purchased a beaded bracelet at an arts and crafts fair. It featured beads in shades of green, brown and tan and quickly became a favorite item in my wardrobe. I loved it so much that I wanted another just like it, but in blue and green. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find the bracelet I envisioned, with beads in shades like jade, aqua and Mediterranean blue, all the same size. Then I realized there was a bead shop downtown that I’d probably walked past a hundred times but never went in. They had hundreds, maybe thousands of types of beads, including the kind that I wanted. I chose beads and a clasp, then a sales assistant showed me how to lay out my design, string it, and then crimped the clasp on for me. Voila! I had my ideal beaded bracelet, exactly the way I wanted it to look. If there’s no bead store near you, most craft stores carry the items necessary for making jewelry.

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