Think Flinqué Enamel Is a Decorative Art of the Past? Think Again

  • Chronoswiss Artist watch
  • Flinqué enamel adorned the cases of antique watches like this historic Breguet
  • Fabergé’s Altruist men’s watch captures some of Peter Carl Fabergé’s design signature
  • H. Moser & Cie’s Perpetual Calendar Heritage Limited Edition
  • Pen maker David Oscarson is a latter-day master of the flinqué technique
  • Pen maker David Oscarson is a latter-day master of the flinqué technique
  • Jonathon Keats

Modern artisans strive to re-create the past brilliance of flinqué enamel.

Shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Kremlin received a peculiar request from a German jeweler named Herbert Mohr-Mayer: Would the Soviet leader accept a Fabergé egg presented in his honor?

Mohr-Mayer’s egg was as lavish as those once commissioned by the czars—featuring vivid translucent enamel over intricate engraving—but it was entirely new and of his own making. Recently appointed to revive Peter Carl Fabergé’s artistry under the dormant Fabergé trademark, Mohr-Mayer’s company sought to bring new meaning to an iconic imperial object.

The Gorbachev Peace Egg was graciously accepted, and an invitation was extended to study the originals behind the Iron Curtain. According to Marcus Mohr—Mohr-Mayer’s son and heir to the Victor Mayer brand—both sides appreciated what the other had to offer. “Later I was told that these crafts could only survive in the West,” he says, “because the Communists destroyed luxury production.”
Enamel over engine-turned engraving—often called flinqué—is now enjoying a renaissance, as many companies rediscover the beauty of Fabergé’s signature technique. Some of these brands, such as Jaquet Droz and Cartier, have a history of combining the crafts of enameling and engraving that predates Fabergé’s rise to fame. Others, such as Chronoswiss, have opened ateliers for enameling only in the last decade. What all have in common—and share with Victor Mayer—is a devotion to learning all that can be gleaned from antique sources and carrying the craft into the 21st century.

Even in the West, flinqué endured a dark age after Fabergé’s era. “For a time, nobody was interested in engraving and enamel,” says Mohr. “These were considered too expensive and not up-to-date.” As the old machinery was sold as scrap, a few visionaries like Mohr’s father acquired what they could. They also sought out antiquarian books that might reveal tricks of the trade, and supplemented this knowledge by closely scrutinizing antique objects.

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