Cloisonne is a unique art form that originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). In the period titled 'Jingtai' during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the emperor who was very much interested in bronze-casting techniques, improved the color process, and created the bright blue that appealed to the Oriental aesthetic sense. After a processing breakthrough, most articles for his daily use were made of cloisonne; in time cloisonne became popular among the common people; their favorite called 'Jingtai Blue'.
During the reigns of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), cloisonne improved and reached its artistic summit. Colors were more delicate, filigrees more flexible and fluent, and scope was enlarged beyond the sacrifice-process wares into snuff bottles, folding screens, incense burners, tables, chairs, chopsticks, and bowls.
Cloisonne manufacture is comprehensive and sophisticated, combining the techniques of making bronze and porcelain ware, as well as those of traditional painting and sculpture:
Model hammering: The process is to form copper pieces into various shapes with a hammer according to a design, joining them under high temperature.
Filigree welding: In filigree welding the artist pinches and curves copper filigree into delicate flower patterns, pasting them onto the copper molds. Possibly the most challenging step of the procedure, heating to 900 degrees centigrade, firms the metal.
Enamel filling: Through this interesting procedure, the cloisonne wears a colored wrap. Handicrafts specialists fill enamel glaze into lattices formed by fine-spun filigrees. Just one filling is not enough - the filigrees extrude, and the surface is dull. They have to fuse powdery glaze in the smelter at 800 degrees centigrade, then take the object out and repeat the process three or four times until its surface becomes smooth.
Surface polishing: Seeking smooth surfaces, artisans polish articles three times with grit or charcoal. The work requires extreme care.
Gilding: After acid pickling, fluid gold adds elegance and civility to a cloisonne piece.
Today cloisonne technique is associated with the sculpture of wood, jade, ivory and lacquer. Cloisonne art is exported to many countries as a favorite medium for ornaments.