This is one of a series of postings about enameling and art metalwork. It is based primarily on my work in the 1980s. I am not a master of these arts, but I hope this fact will be an advantage in communicating the basics, in simple terms, to readers who are not already familiar with them. The series is not intended to instruct in procedures, but solely to impart an appreciation of the art forms involved.
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Scorpion Fish is a pendant enameled in the basse-taille (low relief) technique. The image was etched by nitric acid out of fine silver, and was then completely covered by enamel. Many means other than etching can be used in this technique to produce the three-dimensional image.
The design was based on a photograph of a live fish in deep ocean waters. Its flesh was transparent and the skeleton was visible. This made it an ideal candidate for the basse-taille technique.
Opaque black enamel was used in the first layer in the background area and the pupil of the eye. All subsequent layers of enamel were transparent, some colorless and others in various colors. These were built up until the entire low-relief image was submerged, and the top surface was honed flat and polished.
Strictly speaking, the silver border is not a feature of the basse-taille technique. It is borrowed from another style of enameling, champlevé (raised field), where a design is created by bare areas of the underlying metal alternating with areas of enamel.
Other examples of the combined use of the two techniques are shown in the pendants and earrings below.