Minakari or Enameling is one of the most glorious Iranian handicrafts. It is the art of painting and designing the surface of metals such as gold, silver, and copper by glazing colors and fire in the furnace (Sometimes, it is done upon the glass or ceramics too.) According to the orientalist scholar Arthur Pope, Minakari dates back to 1500 B.C.
is usually done on different utensils, such as vases and plates, picture frames, the doors and windows in holy shrines, jewelries, small decorative objects, and combined with Khatamkari, Miniature, Jewelry making and other kinds of art. Different kinds of paints used in Minakari were taken from plants, minerals, and iron ore. Nowadays, chemical paints are often used. The craftsmen use gold, copper, and tin in combination with different chemical materials to make red, green, and yellow colors respectively.
Mina, meaning heaven in Persian, is a glasslike coating that can be fixed on different kinds of metals by heat. It is available in different colors, such as azure blue, reddish purple, green, yellow, cyan, yellow, gold, and black. But Isfahan Minakari is usually known by the colors of azure blue and turquoise or cyan.
From among the samples of ancient Iranian Enameling, there are Sassanid plates discovered in Armenia, kept in Islamic Arts Museum, Berlin. One of the oldest samples of Minakari is a pair of earrings, discovered in Nahavand, dating back to 800-700 B.C. An Achaemenid gold armband ornamented with Minakari is exhibited in Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The art of Minakari or Enamelling is called miniature of fire as well as the decoration of metal and tile with mina glaze. Minakari or Enamelling is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colours that are decorated in an intricate design. Mina is the feminine form of Minoo in Persian, meaning heaven. Mina refers to the Azure colour of heaven.
The process of creating metal forms, painting and coating with enamel is a rather complicated process. Surprisingly, at that time the ancient Persians had such skills. For enamel, mostly silver and copper are used. The patterns of the minakari are so diverse that it is difficult to find two pieces with the same patterns. Several masters take part in the process. First the basis for painting from silver, gold or copper is prepared. It can be a vase, a plate, a jug and etc. Then the product is enameled and burned. The process is repeated for 3 times. And finally, when the object is ready, the master covers it with a painting. First, a background color is applied, then fine patterns and the smallest details. When the painting is finished, the object is placed in the oven. The finished product is examined in detail for the detection of cracks and defects and only products with a perfectly even coating and a pattern are sold or exhibited.
Isfahan is considered the center of ornamental art and the best enamel masters live in Isfahan. The most expensive and unique products are stored and exhibited in the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts. In the city bazaar of Isfahan, you can find the best examples of the minakari, and each of them deserves special attention. The products are also exhibited on Chahar-Bak Street and next to Naksh-e Jahan Square. In all bazaars of Iran, you can also find counters with pitchers and souvenirs with paintings. Souvenir with unique painting will be a wonderful present as a memory of an unforgettable journey to an ancient country.