First you need to know what lacquer is. The word lacquer comes from the Sanskrit word lākshā which represents the number 100,000. In fact lacquer is used for both the lac insect (because of their huge numbers – get it?) and also for the scarlet resinous secretion produced by these lovely insects! I’m sure there are some sections of the
population that like creepy crawlies. The secretion is rich in shellac which was used as a wood finish in ancient India and the neighbouring areas.
India is mentioned in the previous blog Solid sterling silver bangles from London, because of the long history of ancient jewellery discoveries coming from archeological digs throughout the country. All kinds of jewellery have been uncovered including silver jewellery. Those lovely hard working insects were also mentioned.
Sorry back to the topic in hand wooden lacquered jewellery boxes. Lacquarewear from Asia is sometimes called “true lacquer”. Objects are coated with the treated, dyed and dried sap of a certain tree family. No creepy crawlies here unless they live on the tree I suppose. It is then put on in many coats to a base that is usually wood, to produce a lovely surface. What was I saying about envy-inducing, the finish is so luxurious. A perfect way to store your silver jewellery.
Once the lacquer dries it becomes a very hard and smooth surface. With the added advantage of being long lasting and waterproof. It feels fantastic and is lovely to look at. Asian lacquer is often painted with pictures, carved or inlaid with shell and other materials. It can also be dusted with gold – just like fairy dust. Imagine the ancient wooden lacquered jewellery boxes of old, would they have stored silver jewellery?
In the more modern technique, lacquer means a range of coloured or clear wood finishes that dry by solvent evaporation. Or it can sometimes be a curing process that produces a hard, durable surface. Let’s get really technical now, there are various ‘sheen’ levels from ultra matte to high gloss. It can even be further polished to make it even more sparkly – just like your silver jewellery.
Believe it or not there is actually a sheen measurement used for different lacquer finishes. Different manufacturers give their own names to the sheen. So let’s have a guess at the sheen description’s. Not too hard – flat, matte, egg shell, satin, semi-gloss and high gloss. On a wooden lacquered jewellery box it just looks divine just like your silver jewellery stored inside.
A lacquer fact worth knowing – like china is a common name for porcelain, in lacquer terms japanning is an old name to describe the technique used by Europeans to copy those clever Asians that made the lovely wooden lacquered jewellery boxes used for storing their precious silver jewellery.
Back to those naughty Europeans, as Asian lacquer work became popular in England, France, Spain and the Netherlands during the 17th century, Europeans developed copies but by using a different technique. They found a resin base much like shellac (remember those insects) which was applied in many coats of varnish and each layer was heat dried and then polished thereafter known as japanning.
Check out the beautiful wooden lacquered jewellery boxes inside which you can store anything you like but don’t forget your silver jewellery.