French vs. German

 French glossy enamel bracelet.
 Signed "Emaux d'art" H Bevaud, Limoges"

Modernist
Enamel Jewelry (1930's- 1960's)
 


by Ginger Moro

German matte enamel linked bracelet featuring stylized fish signed "S" in circle
 for Scholtz & Lammel.
 

The difference between the opposing stylistic approaches to the decorative arts of France and Germany is evidenced in the distinctive aesthetics of the two countries in the 20th century. The Art Nouveau movement was interpreted by the French with whiplash designs i.e: flowing hair tendrils, and swirling florals with plique à jour enamel. The German Jugendstil artists squared off the French sensual curvilinear themes, taming the feminine excesses of the Belle Epoque. 

The geometric Art Déco designs in France were inspired by the ziggurats of Central America and Egyptian pyramids, and African tribal art. The decorative arts were realized with luxury materials: exotic woods; oriental lacquer; precious metals; and pâte de verre and guilloché enamel. The Germans, following the strict tenets of the Bauhaus, displayed the Machine Age zeitgeist of the Thirties. The no-nonsense materials of choice were chrome and Galalith- a milk-based casein plastic as produced by Jakob Bengel, in what I call "Mensch Modern" design. 

The different art aesthetics carried over into the post war years with the enamel techniques. The French created jewelry with glossy painted enamel, based on the classic Limoges tradition. There were many artists based in Limoges, as well as Andrée Bazot  in Paris. The Germans preferred the matte enamel cloisonné technique.

Transparent vs. opaque.
 Freeform vs. structure.
 L'air du temps vs. zeitgeist.

Both enameling techniques have their origin in ancient times. Painted enamel was favored in 15th century Limoges for royal or family portraits. Enamel was applied with a brush, without the cloisonné borders. 20th century enamel floral brooches and bracelets are signed "Emaux d'art", "Limoges", along with the artist's name- Fauré, Vergolle, Peltant, Brevers, Duban-Crystal, Arnault, Bevaud, among them.

In the 50's and 60's, the preferred French technique was silver-foiled copper pieces which were decorated with raised frit- hunks of clear enamel called "cookies" (some 1 inch wide) - which were fused to the base, imitating gemstone cabochons. The first clear enamel layer was fired on the copper or silver base, followed by the silver foil which was laid down with gum. The layer of colored enamel was followed by the cookies fused to the base. This was a demanding process, because the firing temperature had to be controlled or the cookies could break off after the cooling. Each enamel piece required a coat of counter-enamel on the reverse to avoid warping when the decorated side was fired.

Three hinged glossy enamel bracelets with raised cabochon frit "cookies" and gold trailings, signed "Andrée Bazot"
Ca. 1960.

Andrée Bazot was one of the most creative enamelists of the postwar period. Her exhuberant glossy enamel designs were freeform or cutout with highly original color palettes. Each was one-of-a-kind hand-painted. She decorated the last enamel layer with 18 kt. gold trailings. The effect was both sensual and feminine. Bazot created parures of stylized florals or biomorphic shapes. The necklaces were strung on gilded "mousetail" chains. These are signed ", Paris" on the clear counter-enamel. Parures of earrings, bracelets, brooches, rings, and necklaces were created with striking color combinations. Prices range from $350 to $650 per piece.

Turquoise cookies and gold trailings with a turquoise counter-enamel
 signed "Andrée Bazot"

 

The Germans preferred the cloisonné matte enamel technique where the cloisons wires are soldered on the copper or silver base which separates the colors.  The resulting cells are filled with enamel and buffed flat. Originating in Egypt in 1800 BC, the technique was introduced to Germany in the 10th century AD by a Byzantine princess. Hydrofluoric acid applied to the surface produced the matte effect in the 20th century. Artists who designed for Theodor Fahrner in Pforzheim, Germany, excelled in Art Déco/Moderne silver or copper-based matte enamel decorated with hardstones. 

During WW II, the jewelry-making towns, forced to convert to manufacturing munitions, were razed to the ground by Allied planes. Rising from the post-war ruins, several firms like Perli, Scholtz & Lammel, G Bunge, and Wilhelm Leyser continued the tradition from geometric Machine Age to biomorphic Fifties forms. A coat of counter-enamel applied to the reverse of the piece was often the same color for each artist, which aids in identification, since many pieces were unsigned.

Perli Werkstätte, founded by Martha May in Schwäbish-Gemund in 1922, switched from manufacturing faux pearl jewelry to cloisonné enamel in 1935. Perli pieces were exhibited in the 1937 Paris Exposition Internationale. Matte enamelled silver or copper jewelry for men and women were signed "Perli", sometimes "handarbeit" (hand-crafted.) The counter-enamel could be glossy black or speckled grey. 

The Scholtz & Lammel firm was founded in Idar-Oberstein, a town primarily known for gem-cutting. Designer Sigrid Gottstein created geometric designs for pendants, rings with adjustable shanks, link bracelets, and cufflinks. Until recently, the "S" in a circle maker's mark was assumed to belong to Karl Schibenski. We now know that he was a goldsmith who worked in Idar, but never designed matte enamel. Scholtz & Lammel paper tags proclaimed  (in German,) "fire enamel, veritable hand-crafted." Sometimes, but not always, the "S" in circle mark was found on the clear enamel base. Bracelets were either rigid bangles or hinged segments.

 Five cloisonné matte enamel pendants, ring, and cufflinks by Scholtz & Lammel and Wilhelm Leyser

 William Leyser enamels made in Idar-Oberstein, were stamped "WL" on the clasp. Leyser decorated his bracelets with stylized fish or rhomboid shapes which usually incorporated glossy royal blue counter enamel. A.G. Bunge's atelier was in Munich. Matte enamel street scenes and geometric link bracelets often bore notched clasps.

Three cloisonné matte enamel wide hinged cuffs featuring biomorphic Fifties designs, and one checkered enamel over silver foil cuff by Scholtz & Lammel, ("S" in a circle") and Wilhem Leyser ("WL".)

 Photograph by Amanda Youmans for Kentshire Gallery, NY

German matte enamel rings by Scholtz & Lammel. The enamelled copper rings all have adjustable shanks with "S" in a circle stamped on the counter-enamel.

Prices for matte enamel German pieces of the 50's and 60's range from $250 to $450 for pendants and rings, $500 to $1500 for hinged bracelets, depending on the width of the piece, or the venue.

Collectors continue to be intrigued by how different the techniques and design traditions of adjoining countries can be.

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Ginger Moro is the author of "European Designer Jewelry" and the update of Lillian Baker's "Plastic Jewelry of the 20th Century". She can be reached at: modmoro@earthlink.net

 

 

Article by Ginger Moro
http://www.Gingersjewels.com

Photos courtesy of Ginger Moro and Amanda Youmans
Web design by Marbeth Schon

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