The Plique a Jour Technique with Torch

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By Carmen LombardiMore from this author

Plique-a-jour, in French, means "applied to carved spaces" or "membrane where daylight passes through". The 'plique-a-jour' enameled jewelry is endowed with gleam and delicacy. This technique, described by Benvenuto Cellini in 1568, had been forgotten and then rediscovered by the French enamellists in the mid-19th century. Its effect is similar to the miniature.

The design of this jewelry takes inspiration from the motifs of the decoration of the Alhambra Palace located in Granada, southern Spain.

The Plique a Jour Technique with Torch

image_1Make a pair of earrings by using 950 alloy from 0.90 mm sheet silver. Cut out the design internally so that the openings are not more than 5mm in length, and at least 3mm from the metal edge and having a minimum distance of 1.5mm between openings. These measurements are necessary in order to guarantee a sturdy silver frame and to prevent the enamel from cracking.
image_2Place the sawn out silver pieces on a titanium sheet and apply wet enamel in light colors using a number 0 brush. The silver sheet and the titanium sheet must be very smooth and they must lay in close contact with one another. Be careful that the enamel is not too wet during application so that the enamel and water will not run under the piece. Titanium is used in this technique because enamel will not adhere to its surface.
image_4Handle the titanium sheet by picking it up with a 'third hand' tweezers and be careful that the silver and enamel do not move on the titanium sheet. Heat up the titanium underneath by using the torch, first with candle flame (partially closing the air valve) and then with the hard flame, since it is necessary to have much heat for the enamel to soften.
image_3Let it cool down and repeat the enamel application and the torch firing as many times as necessary for the enamel to reach the thickness of the silver sheet.
image_5Clean up excess enamel on both sides with a diamond point making sure the areas of the silver that had contact with the titanium are clean. Continue finishing the silver surface with medium to fine sandpaper ending with 600 grit paper.
image_6Wash the pieces in running water by using a toothbrush with soft bristles.
image_7Torch fire the pieces again to make the enamel glossy. Rest the work on small pieces of sheet titanium being careful not to let the enameled areas touch the titanium pieces. Let them cool down. Place them into an acid bath to brighten the silver and finally polish them up.

The 'plique-a-jour' technique is perfect for making earrings, allowing a larger transparent enamel effect possible.


By Carmen Lombardi [Volume 28, Number 1, February, 2009]
In association with
glass on metal
Glass on Metal is the only publication dedicated to enameling and related arts. Technical information, book reviews, how-to articles and insight on contemporary enamelers highlight each issue.

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Carmen Lombardi

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