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Chinese Canton Enamel – Cloisonné Bead Comparison

Neither of the these enamel techniques have their origins in China. Enamel painting was introduced probably from the French in the early 18th century where it was adapted with such skill that the form is often referred to as ‘Canton Enamel’ because …Chinese artisans excel in it.


[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

The other technique’s origin (with its French name – Cloisonné (cloisons in French), was originally from Byzantium or the Islamic world and the technique reached China in the 13-14th centuries.  There are a number of good articles on the internet about both techniques… Wikipedia and the Metropolitan museum have a great deal of history and information.

Chinese cloisonné is sometimes confused with Canton enamel, a similar type of enamel work that is painted on freehand and does not utilize partitions to hold the colors separate.” What I thought would be helpful to show how a cloisonné bead was made and compare it to the relatively free form of the Canton Enamel technique.

Steps in Cloisonné Process

[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

Cantonese Enamel Beads


These necklaces were created with the link chain already in place. Even without the metal forms found in cloisonné, Chinese artisans are remarkable in creating beautiful symmetries and repeating patterns, It is a wonderful mix of freeform design and discipline… not to mention the vivid color and presence of each bead.

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