Unique cloisonné enamel jewellery and Plique-à-jour bowls
Alexandra Raphael has perfected the ancient craft of enamelling over many years. Specialising in Plique-à-jour (or backless enamel) and cloisonné jewellery, she spends hours bending and shaping her ribbons of fine silver and gold wire. Gradually she applies a thin layer of ground glass between her intricate wire design and fires at 800ºC. The painstaking procedure has begun. Another layer of glass is applied and fired. Layers of translucent enamel overlap each other and the depth of colour emerges with each new application and firing. Finally the finished enamel piece is ready for polishing.
Her new "Dream Series" was inspired by crystal shaped semiprecious beads. The delicate colours of aquamarine, amethyst and moonstone led her to another direction by shaping and folding the silver base to reflect the angles of the stones. Her ethereal figures floating and dancing across the jewel are shaded in translucent pastel coloured glass. As the work evolved the figures became "trapped" within the stone as insects in amber while others seemed to flow out from the centre. Moons, stars and symbols were entwined with the figures. The final inspiration was to cut a hole into the jewel and allow the viewer to see a hidden image within.
Alexandra's unique and personal work can be appreciated on many levels. The depth and meaning of her images can be personalized for the wearer (as can be seen in her "Amulet and Talisman" made in 1981). Her early "Moon" jewellery is immediately recognized as a 'Raphael'. Alex's "Native American" inspired pieces incorporated legends and powers of dreams and stones.
Throughout the many years Alexandra has developed as a jeweller, her real challenge was to perfect the arduous technique of Plique-à-jour. This was a gradual learning process started in 1980. Each bowl or vase was an experiment and taught her what worked and what didn't. Finally in 1986 her silver Plique-à-jour "Frogs and Tadpoles" won 2nd prize in the Goldsmiths' Craft Council and was later purchased by Musee de L'Horologerie (Museum for clocks and enamels) in Geneva, Switzerland. These amazing fragile vessels of wire and glass leave the beholder breathless.