Join Date: Dec 2004
champleve vs cloisonne
Both techniques involve the creation of a design via the use of multi-colored vitreous enamels which are contained in sunken areas or "wells" bordered by metal. Your saber's fittings appear to be done in the champleve technique, in which the voids which contain the enamel are hollowed from somewhat thick metal by means of chisels or other tools. The enamels, generally mixed into a paste, are applied into the hollows, and the piece is baked until the enamels become hard and glassy, and can be then polished down.
The other technique is cloisonne. The design is created with thin pieces of flat wire brazed to the surface. The spaces between wires (cloisons) are then filled with the desired colors, and the piece is baked to vitrify the enamels.
Both techniques were known in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. Vitreous enamels were known in Egypt and other classical civilizations, and the Arabs probably learned it from the Byzantine Greeks. Enamel work of this type was introduced into China during the Mongol dynasty, and of the two techniques, cloisonne became far more popular. It then spread to Japan, where in the 19th cent. the traditional technique was influenced by more advanced enamel formulas from France to create effects unknown in China or the Muslim world.