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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.


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?