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What is the difference in terms of technique between Laquer and Enamel?

Nuun Bi-Colour ring mounted on yellow gold set with a bicolour tourmaline diamonds and bicolour lacker hand painted and Alison-Lou “R” Enamel stack ring mounted on yellow gold set with a ruby

When we think of jewelry, we typically think of diamonds and gemstones, with color provided in jewelry through vibrant precious and semi precious stones. Another way to create that pop of color in jewelry though, is through the use of lacquer and enamel!

Author By Holly Albertson

Lacquer and enamel can both be used to prevent tarnishing on metals, but most often they are used as a decorative and artistic component in jewelry. Lacquer is a type of liquid that is made of shellac. You can brush it onto your surface in as many layers as you like, until you’ve reached your desired thickness and shine. Jewelers such as Nuun Jewelry, use colorful lacquer to highlight and accentuate gemstones and diamonds. Their newest Collection, El Hada Etude, uses lacquer to both highlight and contrast colors of their various gemstone components. They use pink lacquer with Morganite and blue with Aquamarine. Some pieces are set with just diamonds and no gemstones. The use of colored lacquer provides a beautiful pop of color. The lacquer accentuates the design, such as the star with their Tutti Ring, Necklace and Earrings where the diamonds have been cut in a specific shape in order to fit the design.

Nuun jewels El Hada Etude Morganite Storm bracelet with pink lacquer; and Storm Aquamarine bracelet with blue lacquer
Nuun – jewels El Hada Etude Morganite Storm bracelet with pink lacquer; and Storm Aquamarine bracelet with blue lacquer
Nuun Jewels Tutti necklace mounted on yellow gold with diamonds and hand painted lacquer
Nuun Jewels – Tutti necklace mounted on yellow gold with diamonds and hand painted lacquer

During the latest Paris Haute Couture Week held in July, Chaumet unveiled their Tresors d’Afrique Collection using lacquer in a selection of pieces as a technique to accentuate the inspiration of the collection. As part of a high jewelry set, the mix of  colored lacquer used next to gemstones and diamonds provide another form of colorful decoration. In their Terres d’Or Ring, slivers of bordeaux lacquer enhance the use of diamonds and yellow sapphires as if an African mask adorned your finger to subtly hide the phalanx’s joints. The secret watch is topped with a ruby cabochon and yellow sapphires. The bracelet is made of three lines of beads of rubies and seem to be highlighted with diamonds and micro-panels of lacquer to tone down the dazzling effect the watch.

Chaumet Trésors d’Afrique Secret Watch with lacquer and set with a ruby cabochon, yellow sapphires and diamonds
Chaumet – Trésors d’Afrique Secret Watch with lacquer and set with a ruby cabochon, yellow sapphires and diamonds
Chaumet – Terres d’Or ring from the Trésors d’Afrique collection mounted on white and yellow gold with lacquer and set with yellow sapphires
Chaumet – Terres d’Or ring from the Trésors d’Afrique collection mounted on white and yellow gold with lacquer and set with yellow sapphires

As much as they look alike, enamel and lacquer are different. In fact, the art of enameling starts with a powder, not a liquid. In other words, enamel is a glass substance in powder form. Once the powder is fired at a high temperature, it turns into a paste. This paste can then be coated by a jeweler onto a metallic surface often used on gold, before it is then heated and hardened. Enamel can be opaque, like lacquer, but differing from lacquer, it can also be translucent and transparent. Enamel can also have engraved designs within it, such as the ones we can find in Brooke Gregson’s jewelry collections. Her enamel rings, pendants and bracelets have become over the years her signature. Not only is enamel a decorative piece in itself, but also a tool to provide even more design. Alison Lou, on the other hand, uses solid enamel to create her designs. From stars, hearts, lips and flowers, Alison Lou’s pieces are mostly made of smooth enamel.

The use of enamel and lacquer in jewelry is a fun way to provide some color to any piece of jewelry. Whether it is a solid piece of lacquer or a more designed piece of enamel, these components are a beautiful addition to jewelry!

Brooke Gregson Gold Georgian bezel diamond with hand engraved and emamel detail with hand woven silk and 18k gold chain bracelet and 18k gold button closure
Brooke Gregson – Gold Georgian bezel diamond with hand engraved and emamel detail with hand woven silk and 18k gold chain bracelet and 18k gold button closure
Alison Lou Enamel Daisy Stud 14K Yellow Gold ring, accented with white enamel petals and a single Yellow Sapphire center; Enamel Star Bracelet made of 14K Yellow Gold with a yellow enamel star, and Enamel Lip Necklace made with 14K Yellow Gold and pink Enamel Lips
Alison Lou – Enamel Daisy Stud 14K Yellow Gold ring, accented with white enamel petals and a single Yellow Sapphire center; Enamel Star Bracelet made of 14K Yellow Gold with a yellow enamel star, and Enamel Lip Necklace made with 14K Yellow Gold and pink Enamel Lips