There is no doubt about it, custom made enamel lapel pins have been trending for the last ten years, and they show no sign of slowing down. If you run a small business to a larger organisation, NGO or charity of any sort, you should be considering custom made enamel pins as part of your marketing effort! Studio Dais has seen every imaginable type of pin badge on the market. Whilst looking through our vast collection we pondered, who made the first enamel pin badge? We thought we would take a trip in the depths of ancient civilisation to find out the true history of enamel pin badges. Let’s go!
PART 1 – History Behind The Enamel Pin Badge!
What is Enameling (or Vitreous Enameling)?
Before we look at the history of enamel pin badges as such, first we need to find out what enamel is as well as the art form known as enameling, aka vitreous enameling. Enameling has both artistic and practical applications. This article is solely focussed on the artistic application.
One big distinction that needs to be made before we move forward is that modern enamel pin badges do not use the same methods as those used 3,000 years ago. Modern ‘enamel’ is actually what we call enamel paint. Paints that do not contain any form of glass (as you will read below). We are still capable of producing the classic cloisonné hard enamel pin badge, but it is not common and the pricing does not suit all of our clients budgets.
Like Glass In Appearance. The History of Enamel Pin Badges
The word ‘Vitreous’ means ‘like glass in appearance of physical properties’ and it is vitreous enameling we will be concerning ourselves with at this moment. Vitreous enameling is quite simply glass fused at high temperatures to the surface of metal. Yes, GLASS, aka silica, aka Quartz! Vitreous enameling traditionally derived enamel (or glass) from smelting or vitrifying naturally occurring minerals (rocks) at intense heat (1350f – 1500f), to derive ground glass like sand / silica. Soda ash, borax, sand and sodium fluoride are also used in the process to lower the melting point of ground glass enamel from raw materials. Cool huh?!
Adding Other Minerals + Oxides To Get The Desired Colour and Feel
Other minerals and oxides are added at this stage to give the final ground enamel distinctive features. Such as cobalt oxides for blue and gold salts for red. The now famous ‘enamel look’ we see on ancient and modern jewellery using this method is achieved through a firing process that involves placing the metal jewellery with powdered glass enamel in the recessed areas into ovens. Temperatures of up to 1450°f achieve that smooth, glassy, hard wearing and scratch resistant enamel we all know and love! The extremely high heat essentially liquifies the silica / enamel which allows gravity to pull it down into the recesses on the given 2D metal base. 3D artefacts are a different beast altogether!
So that’s what vitreous enamel is, but how did the process evolve and where did it actually come from?
Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and The Development of The Colour Inlay Technique
The art of making enamel pin badges go back a very long time. 3,800 to 4,000 years ago to be precise. Around 1,800 B.C the Mesopotamians and ancient Egyptian artisans developed a method of craftwork called Filigree, which is the process of soldering small pieces of wire together to form very intricate and beautiful filigree ornaments and decorative emblems. By coincidence this led to the development of the ‘colour inlay’ technique (just no one knew it at the time). The way we separate colours in modern enamel pins today with ‘die lines’ was developed from the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian filigree process. Thanks guys! It would be quite some time yet till we arrive at anything that slightly resembles our modern enamel lapel pins!
Enter The Greeks and Cypriots Who Developed the Vitreous Enameling Technique
Some 500 years later the Greeks and Cypriots got to work and discovered the vitreous enamel technique mentioned above. By firing raw minerals in extremely high temperatures to obtain glass powder, which could then be mixed with other minerals to achieve certain property and colour characteristics. Intricate enameled artworks and enameled jewellery could then be made from this process. Some of the Ancient Greek and Cypriot enameled artwork is mind blowing and would change the course of history and the art world that was to come. We are getting closer to understanding the true history of enamel pin badges!
Chinese Fired Cloisonné Enamelware, The Yuan Dynasty and The First Ever Enamel Pin Badges!
It goes without saying, the now traditional forms of cloisonné enameling were greatly advanced under the Yuan Dynasty which ran from 1271 to 1368 A.D. The Chinese took the process further by creating more intricate enameled pottery with a level of detail and finesse still not matched today. And to add to that, they also created what was classed as the first enamel pin badges, wearable, portable art! Now it was possible to wear decorative art, either as a noble or a warrior. Nothing is in isolation. This new method was used by the military to show rank and file from commanders to foot soldiers from this point on all the way up to modern day. The enamel pin badge was born!
Much of the way we see modern artisan enameling is now measured against the Chinese enameling from these centuries alone. They are beyond words, extraordinary.
Modern World Development of Enamel Pin Badges and Lapel Pins. Bringing the History of Enamel Pins to the New World
Since the end of the Yuan Dynasty right up to modern day, enamel pins are still used by militaries to distinguish personnel as well as honour them. Artists, artisans and craftsmen have also been using them over the centuries to decorate important people, express their creative desires or to show political allegiance to a certain societal change or political movement.
The American Civil War 1861 – 1865
Modern by previous examples, The American Civil War (1861 – 1865) wouldn’t have been possible without the enamel pin badge… OK a slight exaggeration. But in order to identify the large number of men and women, enamel pin badges were used to identify troops rank and file as well as which side they were on! True story bro. The American Civil War was a war of values and honour. Wearing a simple little badge spoke 1000 words in 1 second. It empowered soldiers to march to their death or victory. After the war, troops who survived wore their badges with honour and for generations down, the tradition of wearing enamel badges to show association in every day life was born.
The Birth of Advertising in the early 20th Century
With no civil or world wars to fight, the American people got busy and helped create the modern advertising / marketing industry which was a requirement of the now established industrial capitalist economy. Custom made enamel lapel pins play a minute part in this new industry but they have contributed massively.
The First Advertising Agency Is Born
Around 1840 Volney B. Palmer set up the first advertising agency in the world. Though they were more of a ‘space broker’, buying large amounts of blank space in newspapers and selling those spaces individually to companies wanting to advertise. Good old capitalism! From 1910 onwards, a slew of companies and organisations wanted recognition, branding and direction. Such as Coca Cola, AT&T, De Beers and even the U.S Army. Newspapers, street signs, later radio and of course custom made enamel pin badges were all part of the strategies used to build these now monolithic conglomerates we now both love and hate in the modern world! The history of enamel pin badges is coming to a close, what could be next?
Peace On Earth with Custom Made Enamel Pins!
The idea of wearing an enamel lapel pin to convey a message, show allegiance or make a bold statement, all stems from the history mentioned above. Nothing comes from a void.
The little coloured badges known as enamel pins have come a long way and are now a part of every day life! They are responsible for some of the biggest movements and uprisings in modern history. Custom enamel pins have the power to unite a divided nation and sell 1 billion bottles of sugared water. At some point soon, the little pin that can, will bring peace on earth (hopefully soon)!
Part 2 – Modern Application of the Enamel Lapel Pin
How Will You Use This Ancient Artefact in The Modern World?
So now you know how the modern world came to be… Because of enamel pins of course! If armies can be mobilised and world wars won as a result of wearing enamel pin badges, what can these little guys do for your brand, business or organisation?! Do not underestimate the power of the pin badge! They are here to stay.
Studio Dais has written countless blog posts on the power of enamel pins, and how they can be used to transform your business. Here are a few of our favourite blog post that we feel will expand your knowledge on custom enamel lapel pins:
Also don’t forget our award winning Client Focus blog posts, where we introduce you to them, and let them tell their own story in life and business:
CLIENT FOCUS: VANS SHOES 1966
CLIENT FOCUS: SAVING GRACE MUSIC
CLIENT FOCUS: HIKER DELIC / PROPER MAG
You can find more too, under our BLOG section.
Enamel Pins That Move Armies and Sell Ideas!
To conclude, Studio Dais doesn’t just make enamel pins, we help you design enamel pins that move armies and sell ideas. We have 4 dedicated in-house graphic designers who are all highly qualified and each possess their own unique creative specialty. When you place an order with us, we will all consider your original artwork, your goals and needs. Then assign you to one of our dedicated graphic designers. This means you get the very best in design and manufacturing. We will create a blog post where we can introduce all of the Studio Dais team soon. Keep your eyes out for that!
To Conclude the History of Enamel Pin Badges
Till then, please check out the other links posted above on more of our extensive articles on custom pin badges. By the way, please feel free to post this article on the history of enamel pin badges on your social media pages and link back to it in your own blog posts.
If you would like to talk to us about any ideas you may have regarding our custom made (for you) enamel pin badges or any of our other custom made merchandise, please get in touch now. Or feel free to place orders on the site on any of our products.
You can contact us HERE!