Enameled emblems - frequently asked questions
A. Many people refer to the enameled emblems as used on cars as cloisonné; but this is quite incorrect. Briefly, cloisonné (pronounced cloy´-soh-nay) refers to the type of jewelry that makes use of thin silver wires called cloisones to separate the various colors of enamel. No car emblem uses this technique. Instead, the copper base is either stamped, engraved or etched with a design that leaves individual compartments for color separation. This practice is called champleve (pronounced shomp´-leh-vay). Many of these emblems use a translucent color over an interesting texture or design. This type of work is called guilloche (pronounced gie´-yoh-shay). So one might correctly call these enameled champleve emblems, or enameled guilloche emblems, but never cloisonné. Ah, well, we ourselves use the term because most of our customers understand the idea that true hard fired vitreous enamel is used in them.
Q. Then what is an enameled emblem?
A. An enameled emblem is any badge, medallion, or ornamental piece made from a copper stamping, which is then colored by inlaying all the recessed areas with enamel. This enamel is in fact glass, just like any other glass, the difference being special additives which give the glass its color and its special property of bonding with copper. It comes in a powdered form (finely ground) so that it can be applied to metal. Once the enamel is applied to the emblem, it is fired in a kiln at temperatures which will melt glass.
Q. Well that sounds interesting, but it does not explain why it takes so long to do one of these emblems, or why it costs so much.
A. This is the most frequently asked question of all. First of all, like any restoration job, the most time consuming and expensive part of the project is likely to be surface preparation. When a car is restored, painting the car is often the last, least time consuming and least expensive part of the job. Why? Stripping the old paint, repairing rust damage, replacing parts, and all the actual surface preparation is the bulk of the cost and time requirements. Simply repainting the car would never be considered a restoration. Likewise, an enameled emblem is subject to many different types of metal preparation operations before it is ready for enamel. (see In the shop). After all this is done, the actual job of enameling can also be more work than anyone would realize. One color may require several applications (like coats of paint). Some colors can not be done at the same time as other colors, and there is much work that must be done in between each firing. Lastly, we use only the original lead-bearing colors that have been unavailable for decades which makes them expensive and difficult to find.
Q. But doesn't everyone else do this? Emblemagic seems to cost more and take longer than anyone else.
A. Unfortunately NO! Many people have taken enameling classes creating neat ash trays and dishes or even costume jewelry. This does not qualify someone to do a car badge restoration. Over the years that we have been in the business of restoring car emblems, we have evolved an elaborate process that we feel will bring a restorable emblem to like new condition. Some of the metal preparation processes require industrial specialists and cannot be done by us. We must send out the average emblem up to four times. But each of these subcontractors, two of which are large corporations, requires a minimum order (cost), and a certain turn around time for the emblems return.
Q. Is it really worth it to go to all these lengths for a car emblem?
A. It may seem like a gamble. On the one hand we cannot guarantee a restoration. As a matter of fact, this type of restoration is a loss leader for us. The prestige and good reputation that we acquire through a job well done makes us eager to continue this service. But on the other hand, for the customer that demands only the best possible for his car, the question seems moot.