The historical development of enamel

  • It is said that an alchemist, when trying to make gold from a certain mixture, found a marvellous red slag of glass in the jar next to the metal at the end of his work, more beautiful than any glass had ever been before, so that, making use of the experience, he finally found the way to produce this enamel by mixing it with other glazes – and after overcoming great difficulties after long trials.
  • Long before our times, East Asian peoples – the Chinese, Japanese, Indians and the peoples around the Black Sea – had already brought this branch of art to a high level of prestige.
  • Enamel has entered history as a branch of arts and crafts. The art of enamelling seems to have first flourished in Byzantium in the 5th to 10th century AD.
  • Special mention should be made of the art of enamelling on the Rhine, from the 11th to the 14th century, and in France, in Limoges, from the 12th to the 17th century.
  • The word enamel only entered the vocabulary of the German-speaking world in the 17th century. Until then and alongside it, the older german term “Schmelz” (like English “melting”) was used. Both terms go back to the Old High German “Schmelzen”, which was adopted into Middle Latin as “smaltum”. From the Middle Latin smaltum, the French “email” developed, which we still use today.
  • In 1761, J. Gottlieb Justi suggested giving iron crockery a glassy coating, referring to the harmfulness of copper crockery.
  • In 1764, the Königsbronn ironworks in Würtemberg introduced such pots to the market.
  • In 1782, the Swede Sven Rinmann described experiments in the production of enamel coatings from sheet steel. His experiments soon led him to the conclusion that his simple and still very primitively produced enamels provided the most excellent use for cooking and kitchen utensils. Rinmann found the molten mixture of crystal glass, red lead, potash, saltpetre, borax, tin ash and cobalt lime to be a suitable material. This is also where the substances that were to play a major role in the later development of enamel emerged, even though Rinmann was not clear about the significance of tin oxide and cobalt oxide.
  • The 18th century saw an almost complete decline in the art of enamelling in Europe and it was not until the 19th century that the art of enamelling was revived by applying it to iron utensils and adapting it to our modern needs. In the age of coal and iron, the enamelling art of earlier centuries, which was only practised on a small scale, became the enamelling industry.
  • The significance of oxides, cobalt and nickel for the adhesion of the base enamel to the sheet metal was recognised in 1890.
  • It was not until 1934 that A. Dietzel was largely able to explain the mechanics of the adhesion problem.
  • Over the following decades, renowned scientists and practitioners worked intensively on industrial enamelling. Even though the development of enamel has currently reached a very high level of perfection, we are constantly working on the further development of special enamels and new application processes in order to be able to offer the enamel processing industry modern enamels and up-to-date processing methods.
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