It is a common mis-perception that the term guilloché refers to a TYPE of enamelling when the term actually refers to a PROCESS.
Guilloché, phonetically pronounced gee-oh-SHAY, is from the French word meaning "engine turning". It simply means "engine turning patterns" and refers to an ornamental pattern. Guilloché patterns can be seen in neoclassic architecture and banknotes ( in an effort to deter forgery). The technique as it pertains to jewelry making involves carving a design into a base metal.
Guilloché patterns without applied enamel.
The picture above shows patterns for watch faces. The guilloché work in the form of intersecting and curvy lines is clearly discernable.
The guilloché pattern may then be filled with different colors and opacities of enamel paint.
Guilloché patterns with applied enamel.
The machines used to produce the guilloché patterns are called geometric lathes or rose engines.
Antique straight line machine used to create guilloché patterns
The machines used to create guilloché designs are no longer produced. Today true guilloché can be found in mostly luxury watches and then only a very few companies practice the art. The guilloché technique can be seen in various antique and vintage jewelry and vanity items from compacts, pocket watches and dresser sets to charms.
After enamelling, decorative accents such as hand-painted roses may be added to an item.
Guilloché charm with applied enamel and decorative accents
For the charm collector, it is important to realize that simply because a heart-shaped charm features roses does not make it guilloché. A charm which is enamelled does not make it guilloché. Only a charm with the guilloché PATTERN present is guilloché. There are many reproduction charms made to resemble the guilloché process; however modern charm manufactures do not produce guilloché charms. While the new charms may be attractive a potential buyer should be aware they are not purchasing a true guilloché item. It took time and skill to produce guilloché charms and the price of actual antique or vintage guilloché charms reflect that skill. And beauty of course: the true guilloché charms ARE works of beauty.
Just the Facts
Guilloché refers to a process.
Guilloché is not a type of enamel.
Guilloché, phonetically pronounced gee-oh-SHAY, comes from the French and means "engine-turning."
Guilloché refers to a series of patterns.
Guilloché patterns can be found in architecture and banknotes.
When used in jewelry making, guilloché patterns are carved into a base metal.
Machine types used to create guilloché patterns include the rose engine and geometric lathe.
Machines used to create guilloché patterns are no longer manufactured.
Modern charm producers do not create guilloché charms.
Not all charms described as guilloché on eBay are true guilloché. I hope this guide has given the potential buyer enough information to discern a true guilloché item from a reproduction. As mentioned above, many of the new reproduction charms are pretty but a buyer should not be expected to pay the prices demanded by true guilloché charms. Nor should they believe they have purchased a guilloché item when they have not. Have a look at at the current listings for guilloché items on eBay armed with your new knowledge: Guilloche
Thanks for reading!