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Enameling terms: paillonne and grand feu

In an exhibition of haute jewelry, designed by a Frenchman but made in New York, a description of some of his bracelets uses the French word “paillonne” to describe the enameling.

A search on that word indicates it is layering foil in enamel.

Haute watch makers use this word to describe foil decorated enameled watch faces; and in the descriptions of their white enameled watch faces they use the words “grand feu” enamel, which I think means high fired vitreous enamel.

These French words certainly are brief compared to my bulky string of English words, but they are not in the index of my enameling books.

Does anyone know if there are more substantial definitions, or if these are simply French words used for haute jewelry marketing purposes?

Hi Betty,
Ted here, I can point you in the right direction re this.
Pallions are as you have found out are small stamped little designs in gold and silver, which originated in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Mainly Geneva. to supply the enamelling dial watch workers. the main co was Bayeleur et Cie, who supplied me with lots of paillions for my enamelling work back in the 1960,s and I do have a good collection of these in stock. Regrettably they no longer do these and are out of business. Their catalogue i have here runs to at least 1500 different designs. I wonder where all the dies have gone?
Grand feu is just a way of describing high end enameling, which the Swiss were very good at. Look up some of the early 1800’s gold enamelled boxes. Beautiful work.
As for not being in your enamelling book indexes, im not surprised as this technique died out around 1920,and hasnt been used since. No one does this as far as I know as the P’s are not available any more.

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Thanks Ted for this information.

Granted, it’s a niche market, but if you google these words, you’ll see the current use of these words and videos showing this enameling being done on newly made expensive watch faces.

That famous New York jewelry company still makes the bracelets, over 50 years after their debut, and this paillonne enameling looks like a full layer of foil (not like the tiny designs as seen on the watches). Since the bracelets are 18k, the only reason I can see why they are using a full layer of foil is because the slight wrinkling of it makes sort-of a random texture under the enamel.

I think I saw a video of using the foil to completely cover guilloche, which just seems curious, because all these trinkets are made of 18k gold. Why place foil over 18k guilloche?

Re Slight wrinkling,
I tend to follow your reasoning, especially as the transparent enamels they are? using
were really intended to be used over engine turning. Thats different to the multi round engraving on current complications by leading Swiss watch makers on the movement itself.
Such you will see on the yellow (uranium) based enamel on the Faberge easter eggs.
As far as im aware thats not done currently either!, tho probably someone will be able to prove othersise.
I achieved a simpler form of this technique by using a polished as in gramaphone needle edge steel hammer prior to enamelling. this gives a brilliant reflective texture under the enamel.
Still have some samples here of this work of mine from 50 yrs asgo.
finally theres a Swiss lady who does this amazing watch face enamelling. was featured here many yrs ago.

Intriguing! Could we see photos of those old samples of yours, please?

Hi Ted,

Craig here, I am a new member and saw your post on pallions. I am a collector of 18th and early 19th century French timepieces and have been searching for information on pallions and Grand Fue enamel decoration. I have recently purchased several French clocks that have severe damage to the porcelain dials. I can have the porcelain work done on the dials but am looking for a source for pallions like the ones that were used to decorate these dials in that era. I noticed in your post that you may still have stock dating back to the 1960’s and thought I would inquire. I have attached a photo of a clock dial from my collection to give you an idea of my project

. Please let me know if you have any pallions available or if you know of any sources that may still have stock. As I said in the beginning, I am new to this site and hope that the photo uploaded, if not I can email it to you directly

Thanks,

Craig

I‘m presuming that the Pallions you write about are the fleur-des-lis between the roman numerals?

If I blow up the photo these ones appear to be cast and are not what modern enamelists call pallions.

When jewelers refer to Pallions we mean small pieces of silver solder that we cut from sheet or wire.

The pallions you are writing about are small pieces of sterling or gold that are cut from thick foil, usually with a steel punch, are applied to the surface of the enamel and then fired so that they adhere.

Whoever is doing the restoration work should have access to these tools and materials as they are fundamental to the process. If not then you can order up a bespoke punch - but you’ll find it hard to get one made with all the 3-dimensionality that these have.

Hi Craig,
Thanks for your post.
I do have stocks of the swiss made pailions, by Bayeleur from Geneva.
Also have their catalogue, tho not much use now as they have stopped making this metalwork. To correct Tony, they are not sterling but fine silver and 23.5carat gold.
I could help you out but need to know if the enamel repair work was done with cold resins, a perfect match and indistingwishable from fire enamel. Or the true refired repair, as the paillions i have are meant as Tony said to be fired on top of the last coat of enamel.
Esy to do this but with a big BUT! as you risk damaging the original enamell work especially as you do not know what enamel was used.
90% it was a lead based low temp.
Can you please respond off forum as i do not post here anymore.
Im at vladimirdotfrateratgmaildot com.
I knw I have plenty of fleur de lis in silver and will need to look if ive them in gold.
Im not in the USA , im overe here across the pond in the UK.
Spent 7 yrs enamelling then moved into production work of metals alone, tho still hanker afer enamelling.
Have all my stocks the same as that were sold by Schauer et cie from Vienna to Faberge. Visited them 3 times to researh the techniques he used.
and achieved to same results, much to my satisfaction.
I dont do stones nor casting, all my work is wrought, forged, including die stamping up to 200 tons, production runs of 2500 is the norm.
Love big hammers!
Await your off list mail.
ted.

Tony,

Another question, any suggestions as to where I could have the gold fleur de lis reproduced by custom casting or with tool and die stamp process? The finished product would not need to be an exact replica of the photo just an attractive fleur di lis of high quality in the size and dimensions that I can provide.

The artisan that I have spoken with about reproducing the lettering on the porcelain dial is not familiar with this type of casting or stamp decoration but could apply the decorations to the surface of the dial if I provide them. I understand from my research and your email that the original dial would have been fired to “set” the pieces but I have not been able to locate anyone capable of reproducing the dial using the original methods. It would be great if I could locate an enamel artisan or jeweler who works in this field that could take on the project, but I will probably need to have the porcelain dial remade and fired and then have the castings applied to the surface.

I appreciate your help and thanks again,

Craig