What makes Scandinavian enamel so collectable?
The Scandinavians have really excelled with enamel, particular during the beginning of last century when they were able to achieve a fineness and luminosity, both in the design and the enamelling itself, that really set them apart.
How are enamels created?
The enamel is formed by the use of a very fine layer of coloured glass over the top of a metallic backing, which is typically silver.
What techniques are used?
There are generally three main techniques that Scandinavian designers used for enamelling. The first is Guilloche, which is where the pattern of an engraved design on the backing can be seen through the enamel. The second most popular is Champleve, where the enamelling is actually filling in the engraved pattern. The last technique is Cloisonne, where wires are soldered to the backing metal to form little cells and each of those cells are then filled with the coloured glass.
Who are the main designers to look out for?
There are two main Norwegian designers that are very well known. Marius Hammer was an early enamellist who was designing in Victorian times right through to the beginning of the 20th Century. His work is particularly fine and incorporates a variety of complex Guilloche designs.
The most collectable, and probably best known of the Norwegian designers is David Andersen. He was the most prolific designer in enamel, and is widely recognized for his series of butterflies and grouped leaves.
The most famous Danish enamel was made by Volmer Bahner. What is particularly beautiful about his enamel is that it looks a bit thicker and richer than most enamel. His work has a very lustrous, luminous finish to it.
Why do most designers do the same sort of subjects?
As with any creative community, when a design became popular, everybody interpreted the same motif. But generally designers were looking for shapes that would best show off the enamel. Enamellists use complex shapes and curves to highlight the inherent qualities of colour, light and texture. Designers were thus looking for shapes and structures that would show off those elements.
What to look out for
Enamel tends to be quite fragile, so it is important to look for pieces that are in absolutely top condition. Enamel is not easily repairable, and repaired enamel is never going to have the same finish or value as a perfect original.
Is modern enamel made the same way?
The production of enamel has significantly changed with advancements in technology over the last 40 years. Today, most enamelling tends to be produced by a method called ‘cold enamel’ which is a two-part epoxy resin, instead of the traditional ‘fired’ technique. An obvious drawback of cold enamel is that the surface doesn’t have the same vitreous lustre as traditional enamel. As a result you don’t get the same rich finish on the pieces, and this is probably why Scandinavian enamel, made with traditional methods, is so collectable today.