The ancient technology of creating enamel was quite simple. Craftsmen of the Age of Copper created the first the enamel drawings on metal surfaces. Colored sand was put in the right places and then the whole item was burnt in a kiln. Craftsmen pulverized sand added quartz and dyed powder to make enamel ornament thinner and brighter.
The first attempts to create enamel jewelry items on the territory of the Kievan Rus are known since the 3rd century AD. By the end of the 14th century, the town of Solvychegodsk became the center of enamel painting. Here, the Usol enamel was produced. It usually covered the surfaces of dinnerware and kitchen utensils.
Rostov enamel is one of the world`s most popular types of enamel. The town of Rostov became Russian`s center of enamel art in the 18th century. Enamel jewelry is traditionally called finift. It is an interesting fact that the first enamel jewelry was not created by a Russian artist. The pioneer in creating this unusual type of jewelry was famous French jeweler Jan Tuten. The first person who invented a miniature enamel painting in Russia was Metropolitan Arseniy Matseevich. First, finift miniatures were used to decorate church interiors, priest clothing, covers for Gospel books and altar crosses. Various metal salts were used to create different colors. For example, golden powder creates ruby color, salts of cobalt create blue color and copper pieces create deep emerald color.
In the late 18th century, enamel craftsmen under their own guild and evolved their own personal techniques of enamel desingn. Their styles varied and were unique. A. Burov, A. Vsevyatsky, G. Elshin, S. Petrov and many other artists became world-famous because of their unique finift paintings. All these artists originated in Rostov. During the times of the Great October Revolution the finift industry was able to survive hard times. Craftsmen tried their best to save the finift technology secrets. After World War II they reunited in an art studio, which was named Rostov Finift, which preserves the classic enamel technology till today.
In the early 60s the finift technology changed. The perfect jewel needs to have the perfect frame. Silver-plated filigree is a beautiful and glossy material that perfectly matches an enamel picture. The Russian craftsmen created various beautiful and elaborate shapes using very thin, silver-plated wires. Each ornament was handmade and included various designs and beautiful details. After the shape of a future jewel frame is created, the result is soldered by a gas burner and becomes firm.
Finift enamel jewels became extremely popular in the Soviet Union. Silver-plated filigree perfectly matched floral enamel pictures, creating unique, very tender and elegant designs. The idea of this authentic Russian finift design was presented during the Word Montreal Exhibition in 1967. The Rostov art studio`s talented craftsmen created real jewelry masterpieces. N. Kulandin was considered a genius of portrait miniature. V. Gruidinin became world-famous for his gorgeous historical paintings. A. Zaitsev was recognized for his historical portraits. The concept of Rostov finift made the artists extremely famous and all of the art studio members managed to join the Union of Russian Artists.
The craftsmen actively participated at various contests and competitions expanding the trends of enamel jewelry. The art studio`s artists N. Kulandin, A. Khaunov, L. Matakova and V. Soldatov won the I.E. Repin State Prize. Their masterpieces are exhibited in the Russian State Historical Museum, State Russian Museum, State Hermitage Museum, Armory Room of the Moscow Kremlin and other museums, art galleries and private collections.
How to take care of enamel?
Enamel jewelry is not just jewelry; it is a unique piece of art. As said before, the picture on the surface of enamel jewelry is hand-painted and this makes your item always look beautiful and unique. That`s why you need to know how to take care of your enamel piece. Enamel jewelry is quite durable. Thus, if it is treated with care, it can serve you for decades and become the perfect memorable present for future generations. Please follow these simple tips to make your gorgeous enamel jewelry almost eternal.
- A decorative surface layer of each enamel item is always a thin glass layer, that`s why it is sensitive towards any type of physical impact. Enamel surface can crack. Your item can also chip if hit accidently. Therefore, never drop your finift jewelry item and treat it with care.
- An enamel surface is very sensitive to temperature. You should not expose your enamel item to direct sunlight because the quality of a picture can worsen dramatically. Try to cover your enamel jewelry with a piece of your clothing if it is worn in the winter (for example, use a long sleeve of your sweater or coat to cover your enameled bracelet).
- Do not expose your enamel jewelry to any type of acids, chlorine, soda or other detergents that are not specifically made for cleaning enamel. Your finift item may be harmed by contact with your make-up items. You should also never expose your enamel item to sea water.
- To maintain the gloss of your item you need to follow several small secrets. You should wash your finift item with cool water, adding some liquid ammonia to the water you can clean enamel surfaces of your jewelry only with soft brushes and child`s toothpaste. After that, rub the item with a soft tissue.
- Finally, store your enamel item separately from gold and silver jewelry, because enamel can fade if it is exposed to metals.