PLIQUE-A-JOUR (pronunciation: pleek-uh-joor//note:there is supposed to be an accent over the "a") is the rarest, most technically difficult, and prettiest of the various enamel processes used in precious metal designs.
Finial for above bowl
It is a transparent backless colored enamel which is applied to specially prepared surfaces which allows light to stream through the enamel creating a beautiful stained glass effect.
(make sure you see the spoons on the right by using the bar at the bottom of the page)
How is this achieved?
In CHAMPLEVE the enamel is applied between two raised surfaces that were part of the original die stamping or casting process.
In CLOISONNE, the enamel is applied between cells which have been created by the application of thin wire to the surface of the object.
But in PLIQUE-A-JOUR there is no backing to the enamel. The cells must be kept small and the enamel is applied between the open cells and held in place by surface tension or a mica backing plate. After firing, the enamel becomes hardened and permanently attached to the sides. This is a very difficult process for even the most skilled artisans.
The NET EFFECT of this time consuming process is that the enamel becomes translucent and light streaming through it creates a beautiful stained glass effect reminiscent of the beautiful stained glass windows in European cathedrals.
Plique-a-jour spoons and other objects are truly miniature works of art.
(make sure you see the spoons on the right by using the bar at the bottom of the page-the rightmost spoons have plique-a-jour at the finial and in the bowl)
All plique-a-jour pieces are custom made and rare. Most spoons are less than 5” in length. Very little confirmed American made plique-a-jour is to be found. The majority of the spoons are from France or the Scandinavian countries with some pieces from Austria, Russia and China. It is even possible that some of the pieces shown here with American city names may have been produced in another country. Many pieces of plique-a-jour are not marked as to origin or metal content but they are almost always a good grade of silver or gold wash over silver.
One should consider the quality of the workmanship and design and balance that against the asking price in making a purchase decision.
Plique-a-jour is also very fragile and breaks relatively easily. Before buying any plique-a-jour piece examine it very carefully by holding it up to the light. If there are any empty cells, the value of the piece is radically reduced as it is very expensive to have it repaired.
Obviously special consideration should be given to the storage and display of these pieces to protect them from damage.
cute plique spoon with "cherries"
Even photographing plique-a-jour spoons is a challenge. To show the beauty of these pieces it is necessary to have a pure light shining through the piece which means that light is streaming into the camera creating exposure problems and background problems. Therefore I have opted for the easy way and have scanned them in. Doing this I lose some of the translucent beauty of the piece, but at least I get some of the vibrant colors. You will just have to use your imagination a little more.
Plique-a-jour spoons are rare and expensive for their size. Enameling processes range from simple to complicated and objects resulting should be evaluated on the basis of the skill of workmanship required as well as the beauty of the product. Cold enameling and champleve are similar to painting-by-numbers, they are a low skilled endeavor and should not command a premium price. Cloisonne is a much more difficult process and should command a much higher price. Plique-a-jour is the most difficult enameling process and requires a highly skilled artistic silversmith. Even under the best of circumstances there are often problems in the production process. Plique-a-jour spoons sell between $40 and $200+.
Because these color pictures download slower, I have broken up the display into several pages (I also hate to wait for pictures to download so this speeds up the process)
Other items are also made using plique-a-jour. Click to see a set of hors-d'ouvre picks
To see a set of 6 plique-a-jour spoons--Click Here
To see two very large rare plique-a-jour serving spoons -- Click Here
click here to see an interesting set of 3 plique-a-jour spoons in the Gothic revival Style
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