Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Located along the north bank of England's River Thames is the Palace of Westminster.

After many years serving as a primary royal residence, the palace is presently the location of England's seats of government, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Its clock tower, the as Big Ben, is one of the most recognizable landmarks of England. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Rachel Emmerson.

The decorative application of finely crushed glass, known as enamel, to ceramic, stone and metal renders breathtaking results.  Enameling is a time-honored technique that was used by ancient Chinese, Greeks, Celts, and Russians.

Peter Carl Fabergé's exquisite Fabergé Eggs are perhaps the most well known example of the remarkable beauty cultivated from this precision and detail-oriented technique.

To develop her lovely, contemporary jewelry, Emmerson implements two enameling methods: champlevé and basse taille.  These painstaking techniques were developed respectively by early Celts and Italians.

Using the buttery glow of 18-karat gold and the candescent glimmer of sterling silver, Emmerson carves out subtle yet distinctive designs layering them with gorgeous colored apple, jade, crimson, and azure vitreous enamel.

"Hand engraving gives me great freedom to express my ideas. It is incredibly direct, like drawing," says the jewelry maker.

"I can control the width and line just by a flick of my hand. I then kiln fire several layers of colored, transparent enamel over the top. I am fascinated how particular angles and shapes of cut will reflect and move light."

The result is striking almost three-dimensional designs, each with nuanced personalities.  Her Feather Pendant is a sleek semblance of a reclined wing; puckered glass is a highlight of her Leaf Earrings; textile-like patterns are featured on her Eclipse Earrings; there is grainy stucco in her Lunar and Tear Pendants; and the opaque color of stained glass is the focal point of her Trapeze Pendants.

"Enamel for me is pure alchemy. I love playing with color, discovering a new combination is a constant joy and watching expectantly as the enamel cools and the underlying design magically comes to life."
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Lunar and Tear Pendants with Misty Grey and Crimson Grey Vitreous Enamel
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Feather Pendant with Blue-Grey Vitreous Enamel
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