Enamel or enamel making, or as is known in Iran, Minākāri, is nowadays considered as one of the top handicrafts produced by Iranian masters, decorating the houses of both Iranians and also tourists and visitors of Iran touched by the beauty of this truly amazing Persian form of art.
A Brief History of Enamel or Enamel Making in Iran
Unfortunately, the origin of enamel making in Iran is lost in history, leaving us with no firm evidence about the beginnings of this art in the land of Persians. Yet, if you happened to be in London one day, it is worth to pay a visit to the Albert and Victoria Museum to watch and enjoy the dazzling beauty of the enameled bracelets made in Iran during the Achaemenid era (550 to 330 BC), on display in.
Concerning its current form and practice, historians argue that the art of enamel making first developed in Iran during the Seljuk era (12th century). But, it reached its zenith during the Safavid period (17th century), most probably due to the influence of Russian and European enameled wares sent to the courts of kings as diplomatic gifts.
Sadly, the art of enamel making gradually lost its popularity after the Safavids. During the Qajar era (19th century), it was limited to the production of certain wares such as hookah jars and hookah heads.
Fortunately, enamel making flowered once again during the Pahlavi era, thanks to the efforts of master Shokrallah Sanizadeh. Since then, the art of enamel making has been thriving, gaining more and more world reputation.
The Process of Enamel Making
To make enamel, the artist first makes a dish, vase or whatever he has in his mind from copper or, sometimes, from gold or silver. Then, he covers it with glaze or kaolin. Afterwards, the glazed dish is decorated with miniature designs, such as arabesque, flowers and even drawings of historical sites. Now, when the drawings are ready, the master artist has to color them, a process which occurs in several steps.
After coloring the drawings, the dish is put into an oven, with a temperature as high as 800˚C, in order to fix the colors and make the enamel durable. The dyes used in enamel making include various metal oxides like tin oxide for white, chrome oxide for yellow and manganese oxide for purpule. The glaze itself is made of material such as ground lapis lazuli or kaolin. The prominent color in enamel, like the tiles seen in mosques, is blue.
Where to Find the Best Enamel in Iran?
Isfahan is the birthplace of enamel and enamel making in Iran, with many outstanding masters, and if you are tempted to buy enamel in Iran, make sure to visit the unique enamel shops and workshops in this city. Also, you can find high quality enamel in Shiraz, though dyed with different colors from those produced in Isfahan.
written by Nasir Asadi