What does cloisonné mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: cloisonné. 

I’m not hugely interested in things, unless perhaps they are books. I hold no love for fashion or shoes (as most people can intuit by looking at the way I dress.) I’m unconcerned by art, except perhaps the amazing pastels my mother produced later in life. I have no affection for tchotchkes or even for most furniture. People and ideas are what captivate me.

Perhaps this explains why I had never before heard the term cloisonné, which I encountered recently in the book The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn Raffel. Here is how she used the term:

I bought one thing in Greece: a cloisonné plate — my mother had taught me to appreciate that art, in which luminous fragments redound to a whole — in red and green and gold, in rings of starburst.

Cloisonné, it turns out, refers to an enamelling technique in which strips of gold, brass, silver, copper, or other metal wire are welded to a metal plate in the shape of a design. The spaces are then filled with vitreous enamel that is fired, ground smooth, and polished. You can see an example in the piece of jewellery shown above.

As you can probably guess from the accent, the word is French, from cloison “a partition.” If you’re unfamiliar with the word redound, it’s another French term, from redonder meaning “to overflow, abound,” or “be in profusion.”

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