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The secret of enamel

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February 13, 2017

Among the peculiarities that distinguish Gaggenau products are the choice of exclusive materials and an obsessive attention to details. When closely observing Gaggenau ovens, one discovers that their inside walls are a beautiful night blue, unmistakable signature of the brand.

Examining and touching the perfect surface, the mind immediately goes to caress the memory of works of art kept in museums, finds from the Carolingian collections and creations of contemporary design, testimonials of a long artisanal history, already practiced by the Egyptians and that has evolved to today’s sophisticated formulas.

The history of enamel – and more generally that of colour – goes hand in hand with the history of chemistry: a fascinating journey that indissolubly binds art and science, between chance discoveries and laboratory experiments, alchemy and transoceanic commercial routes. It is on these that raw materials and pigments travelled, permitting the creation of exquisite decorated artefacts, mosaics and votive objects.

Related to glass by its chemical composition, glaze makes surfaces waterproof, decorates and embellishes metal surfaces as well as those of noble metals and ceramics. Used since ancient times, enamels saw a great diffusion during the Gothic culture, with increasingly finer techniques developing over the course of the centuries. Champlevé, repoussé, basse-taille, cloisonné: all complex procedures resulting from an extraordinary artistry which have given shape to unique pieces. In the 20th century, these techniques have been flanked by industrial glazing, destined to mass-produced goods such as shop signs, bicycles, household appliances, car bodies and an infinity of other objects of everyday use.

Throughout history, enamel has therefore had both decorative and practical functions, when applied for its qualities as protective coating. Besides ceramics, today enamel is often used on noble metals such as gold and silver or on bronze, cast iron and iron surfaces, so as to avoid the aggression by acid agents and rust and, last but not least, to make everything waterproof.

The blue of Gaggenau’s enamel encloses in itself both a treasure and a secret: on one side, it takes our hand and leads us through the history of art and chemistry – surprisingly close disciplines – on the other it testimonies a jealously kept faith in beauty, a sort of seal applied to each piece. Strong of the experience acquired in the production of advertising billboards – activity carried out in the past – the brand created an oxide, additive and glass-based enamel. This was done following a secret formula, one that possesses a number of virtues: aside from making the inside of the ovens splendid, it consents their automatic cleaning through a process known as “pyrolysis”. This particular process is activated at high temperatures and is completely self-managed by the oven: when the temperature exceeds 500° C, the oven transforms, through a procedure of oxidation, the organic elements present in the cooking compartment. The residues are pulverized and reduced to a gaseous state, consenting the oven’s total cleaning, while the gases are expelled through a catalytic filter.

It is not only design and aesthetics, then, that set this brand – which has reached its 333rd anniversary – of German excellence apart, but also functionality and innovation. Practical products with a sharp design that know how to conjugate techniques of the past with what, only a little while ago, would have been considered science fiction. Revolution in the kitchen, this time, starts with enamel.