Should I Touch That Enamel?

July 1, 2010

Bad Enamel and Some Damage / Mourning BroochIf you know me well enough, you know that I like to look at things from every angle, so when faced with the problem of is it worth buying a piece with chipped, flaked or generally nasty enamel, is it worth it?

Well, I go through enamel jewellery buying binges, I just love good enamel work, especially the bold Victorian ones with those wonderful ‘In Memory Of’ sentiments. For me, buying a piece with damage comes down to asking these questions:

1. Do I love it?
That’s the easy one, if your heart stops and you just can’t live another moment without thinking how magnificent that piece is, get it. If you are getting it for some sort of monetary return, best to overlook it, unless it has some sort of historical significance, it will never been the glorious piece it was when it was first created. Perhaps the piece would complete your collection, perhaps the planets have just aligned and it’s a cheap piece that feels right, either way, you’ve got to love it without batting an eyelid at the cost.

2. Can/should the enamel be repaired?
Is the piece historically worthwhile to buy regardless of the enamel damage? Is yes, then take it and love it. These pieces shouldn’t have their enamel repaired, so there is the fear of further ruining a piece through re-enamelling. But let’s say it’s not significant but you want it to wear, can that flaked or chipped enamel be fixed? The best thing to do here is discover a good jeweller. The problem with re-enamelling is that you need to heat the piece, which will result in losing the existing enamel. The other process is the ‘cold process’, which requires heating the piece (but not so much) and applying layer after layer of enamel to build it back up. This is becoming a lost art in itself and you need to hunt down someone who can do it right. I recommend:

Atelier D’or
350 Bay St, Brighton North,
Victoria, Australia 3186
Phone: (03) 95963000

If you’re in Australia. I’ve had two pieces repaired from them and never been let down.

3. Price
For me, if a piece has enough damage to it, I expect the seller to acknowledge that. With eBay and other instant methods of buying some very nice things, seeing a half-broken 1870s brooch for a premium in a shop just doesn’t hold much interest. As mentioned before, don’t look to a piece that needs fixing to generate profit, unless you have it for no money and you have a cheap method to repair it.

But Hayden, I hear you ask, I’m buying a piece and I don’t know if it has been re-enamelled! What do I do? Well, I’ll save that for another article and a day!

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