The esteemed tradition of enamelling in England was established as early as the Nineth Century when the famous King Alfred Jewel, crafted from crystal with a hand painted enamelled plaque set underneath was made. The art of enamelling faded in England after the Middle Ages but was revived with astonishing beauty and popularity in the Eighteenth Century, after the French began to use painted enamels to decorate small items. This fashion was quickly adopted and developed in England, where the stunning colours and sophisticated designs caught the eyes of the luxury-loving aristocratic upper classes whose appetite for small, elegant and luxurious personal items ‘objets de vertu’ accelerated.
Most of the earliest English eighteenth century enamels were created in England’s first enamel factory, York House, established in Battersea in 1753. Although the factory was only operational for three years, the prolific amount and quality of enamel production was and remains a remarkable feat. These ‘Battersea Enamels’ became a synonym for English Georgian enamels. Today Battersea or York House Enamels are some of the most rare and desirable enamels on the market.
After the closure of York House in 1756, many of its enamellers and decorators travelled to various Staffordshire & Midlands metalworks including Bilston, Wolverhampton and Birmingham and continued to develop techniques, skill and artistry throughout the Eighteenth Century as demand for a myriad of personal items soared and prospered.
These cottage-industry workshops continued to develop enamel methods to decorate more and more objects for the luxury elite, from patch & snuff boxes, candlesticks, desk seals, etuis, musical bird boxes and perfume bottles. Due to these intricate, pretty decorative enamels, often depicting scenes of animals or flowers, these expensive enamels were as popular with children as they were with adults. Consequently, many of them are incredibly difficult to source as they have suffered the playful and careless little hands of children.
English enamels continued to thrive as objects of aspiration throughout the Eighteenth Century until the 1830s with the production ceasing in the 1840s. Despite a small revival of the industry in the 1970s, none of the more contemporary items were able to capture the essence of the earlier eighteenth century models.
Due to the rarity and precious nature of the antique eighteenth century English enamels, they remain exclusive objects of beauty. The Antique Enamel Company has developed an expert reputation and an extensive collection of these highly sought-after enamels and remains a byword in the sourcing of beautiful and exclusive enamels.
Browse the catalogue for one of the world’s largest selection of antique Eighteenth Century English enamels.