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December 1, 2018 – Published in Design & Decor Winter 2018 issue
Halcyon days… the story behind the name
Origin and Legend. The Halcyon is a mythical bird of Greek legend which is now known as the Kingfisher bird famous for its colourful plumage and long beak.
It was believed by the ancients that the Halcyon bird made a floating nest in the Aegean Sea. They thought that during her nesting period, she had the ability to calm the waves. When the Halcyon was nesting around the winter solstice, usually the 21st or 22nd of December, fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected. The Halcyon days are generally thought to begin on the 14th or 15th December. This time of the year!
Established in 1950, Halcyon Days began as a small emporium of antique gifts in Avery Row, Mayfair, London. Although the art of enamelling on copper had flourished throughout the second half of the 18th century, it had almost completely ceased by the 1830s, and by 1950 the process was almost solely reserved for utility items such as saucepans.
Halcyon Days set about reviving this artisan craft and thus the renowned Halcyon Days enamel box was born. By 1959 the company had outgrown the little Avery Row store and moved to Brook Street, Mayfair, where it remained for some fifty years. Due to the installation of Crossrail (a new railway service running through the centre of London), we were forced to relocate from Brook Street but were delighted to open our new luxury home in the Royal Exchange, in the heart of City.
Tradition is at the heart of everything that Halcyon Days does. As the guardian of enamelling, our team of highly skilled craftsmen and master artists employ refined techniques that have been handed down for generations.
This belief in promoting, cherishing, developing and maintaining British craftsmanship and manufacturing can also be found in our wider product ranges. Whilst continuing to create signature enamel pieces, Halcyon Days is now also known for its English fine bone china and fashion accessories, establishing itself as the destination for luxury gifts.
In a digital age where mass produced products are taking over, Halcyon Days has become the guardian of this artisan craft of enamelling. We are a business of tradition – all our enamels are made by hand in our own factory in Wolverhampton, at the heart of where the industry originated in the 18th Century.
Our enamels demonstrate the very best of British craftsmanship and our craftsmen take great pride in delivering luxury products of the highest standard. Each of our beautiful handcrafted enamel boxes is a work of art in its own right. The production of enamels requires meticulous craftsmanship, using a process that has been handed down for generations. The art of enamelling on copper first started in England in the 1740s and was in danger of dying out completely before Halcyon Days revived this master art in 1950.
The basic shapes of all our Halcyon Days enamel boxes are formed by being pressed from fine sheets of copper. The copper is then washed in various solutions including soapy water, acid and clean water to cleanse and etch the surface of the copper. This procedure is crucial to prepare the surface to hold the first coat of enamel.
Liquid enamel is made from small glass particles called ‘frit’, which are ground down to form a fine powder. This is then mixed with china clay and water. The copper parts are then carefully dipped or sprayed with the mixed enamel liquid and fired in a kiln for 8 minutes or so at a temperature of 800°C, fusing and covering to the copper. This process is repeated at least five times to ensure that the finish is hard, glossy and flawless. This is essential as a base for the various stages of decorative applications that follow. Stringent inspections are carried out to check for any blemishes and all imperfect parts are rejected as they occur.
A transfer is placed onto the enamel providing the outline of the design. The enamel is fired for two minutes at 700°C to fuse the transfer and is then checked for any blemishes that may have occurred whilst firing.
A highly skilled artisan hand paints the design using enamel paints made from finely ground glass, metal oxides and oil. Depending on the complexity of the design, the painting can take between a few hours and many days to complete. Upon completion, the enamel receives a final firing and is then checked again for any flaws.
The components of each design are assembled together by using a mount and to ensure the perfect fit, some of the enamel edges are levelled by a procedure called linishing. The boxes are assembled using an adhesive, which is applied to both sides of the mount and then placed into a low temperature heat for 5-10 minutes.
A final, meticulous inspection then takes place, ensuring our customers receive the highest quality finished product. Our enamel boxes are then packed into luxurious presentation boxes.
These beautiful works of art are once again available on the Island as we have re- introduced them here after an absence of about 10 years.
One important possibility is to produce your ‘own’ enamelled box by personalizing one with your unique name, date or dedication, be it an anniversary, birthday, or graduation. Ask us about this service you will be amazed at the possibilities.
Halcyon Days have also ventured into the luxury market and today sell silk scarves and jewellery, but that will come later next year. In the meantime make this a Halcyon Days Christmas, by going to the Facebook page Gio. Batta Delia 1901!