Most of you who know me or have visited my stall and asked me know that my favourite products are my cloisonné bead and pearl strings. Ever since I bought a bag of these intricate beads and paired them with my Akoya pearls, I knew this combination was a match made in heaven. Unbeknownst to me, pearls have been a natural accompaniment to antique cloisonné objet d’art for some time.
Cloisonné is essentially wire-worked painted metal. Gold or silver wire is compartmentalised and soldered onto the object (a method known in French as cloisons) and then the metal is painted with enamel. It was used as a jewellery decoration technique with pearls and gemstones in Byzantine times, however, cloisonné really evolved when the technique reached China in the 14th century. It was here that bright coloured enamel and intricate wire work were introduced and developed.
Here are some examples below of some antique cloisonne, currently being exhibited at the V&A museum;
To this day, antique cloisonné is highly sought after and very expensive. Even antique cloisonné beads go for thousands of pounds, making them a precious commodity and a true representation of luxury jewellery. The cloisonné beads I use with my pearls are brightly coloured and feature a sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom) flower design, to match my Japanese pearls. I combine the glossy texture of these beads and the iridescent nature of my pearls with small genuine Swarovski crystals to add light and a little sparkle. It is this depth in texture and colour that enchants both the beholder and its onlookers to look closer and examine the beautifully fine detailing in the necklace.
My favourite coloured cloisonné bead in my collection is the mustard yellow. I love the richness in colour and how it represents traditional and nostalgic Oriental design. I always pair these with Forest Green Swarovski crystals, or small red Carnelian beads.
If you like what you are reading, come and see me at the Putney Art Fair this Sunday 3rd May from 11am, where I shall have an array of my cloisonné bead strings on display. What better season to wear these necklaces than when all the sakuras are in bloom?