by Marbeth Schon

 Maya Discovery 

Nominated for the 2003 Niche awards

 abstract necklace with pearls


one of a kind sterling and 22 KT gold bezel with tourmaline and pearls

17" long 


Susan Gifford-Knopp approaches enameling as an artist, not a metalsmith. She received a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art from California State University in Sacramento and additional training at the California College of Arts and Crafts at the Mendocino Art Center where she attended many workshops by renowned silversmiths and enamellists. Her fantastic, intricate cloisonné enamels painted on fine silver "canvases" strongly attest to the fact that she considers herself first and foremost a painter and enamellist; her silver bezels, chains, and stones, though beautiful, are secondary and used primarily to enhance the enamel art.1

The enameling I do is problem solving with color, transparency, and depth. It is the most painterly way of creating a jewel or jeweled painting. I use the fine silver like a piece of white watercolor paper to reflect color.  I use a printer's technique to etch images on it, and then layer cloisonné over it. Although the trend in metalsmithing and enameling is towards the abstract, I follow my own drummer and work figuratively.2 


Susan chooses to use fine silver, sterling silver and semi-precious stones because the intrinsic worth of her work is in the artwork, not the materials.

She finds her inspiration in works by Tiffany who used non-precious materials such as horn and turquoise and Lalique's art jewelry.

Their works were always new, sometimes experimental, but always celebrating life, always fantastic color and design, and miniature art unto itself. 

Susan strives to achieve a similar level of craftsmanship, of uniqueness, and of uplifting spiritual content. 

Her work is also influenced by painters such as Van Gogh, Hundertwasser, Gauguin, and Klimt, who were great colorists. 2


"Cat Lady"


gold cloisonné set in silver and gold with opal and onyx

 1 1/2" x 2 1/2"  

    " Me and my Shadow" 


cloisonné on fine silver set in sterling
 with gold accents

 2" x 1 1/2 " 


"The Circus Cat "


cloisonné on fine silver set in sterling with onyx and opal.

 3" x 1 1/2"  

"Frida Kahlo"

 pendant with coral and turquoise

 4" long with 30" chain

"All of Susan's enamel jewelry is cloisonné executed on fine silver. Frequently, the enameling is done over etched patterns on silver, attempting to create a greater illusion of depth.  Although her jewelry features her miniature enamel paintings, it is always  complemented by fine silverwork and semi-precious stones. She does somd of her own lapidary work and many of the freeform stones are specifically selected to enhance and complement the art work.  The jewelry portrays a variety of subjects, but fantasy figures such as fairies are her favorite subjects.  Her jewelry is always marked on the back of each piece with either stamped or engraved initials, 'SGK' and sterling."1


pendant with pearls

cloisonné on fine silver set in sterling w/pearl

 1 1/8" diameter

 16" pearls strands     


"Writing on the Wall"


cloisonné on fine silver set in sterling with sterling and copper chain

  2 1/4" x 2" with 17" chain 



Whereas other enamellists use opaque glazes, Susan uses transparent glazes and brings them to life using fine silver as her base.  "Fine silver is like a good sheet of watercolor paper," she explains, " It has the same reflective qualities to  bounce back the colors."  She also photo-acid etches the silver base creating intricate patterns which appear to float underneath the transparent colors adding measurably to the dynamic three-dimensional quality of her enamel paintings. 3 


4" Magic powers of the Hand"


cloisonné on fine silver set in sterling. 

2 3/4"  x  11/2 "


"The Witch, Devil and Spook"


 cloisonné set into sterling

2 1/2" x 2 1/2" 


"The Joker and the 
Rainbow's End" 

cloisonné and sterling silver intaglio process background

 2" by 1 3/4"

 signed "sgk, sterling" 

  " 911 brooch #2 -- Fear Series"

cloisonné enamel set into sterling

2 1/4" x 1 1/2 " 

Some of Susan's latest pieces are  reflections of the new challenges we are facing in the 21st Century. 

I have been etching monsters in the backgrounds which symbolize living with our fears--which we all experience these days.  The monsters and creatures of the real and imagined are almost materializing out of the transparent enamels into the solid opaque forms.

I had to express 9-11 in an enamel.  I hesitated because I didn't want it to appear trite, but I finally expressed it to get it out of my system.  I don't know if the piece works, but I etched an American flag between the two towers, and portrayed the jet just before impact. The very last moment before the fall--the longest moment of disbelief.1


Susan's work has been featured in many juried national and international shows and she is the recipient of several awards for her enamel jewelry including an Award of Excellence at the International Enameling art exposition--Japan, 2002. She has also been featured in trade magazines such as the October 1997 and 1998 and November 1999 issues of the Lapidary Journal and was recently selected as the 2003 Niche Award Finalist for her piece "Maya Discovery."   

She is included in the book Collectible Silver Jewelry by Frank Rezazadeh and her piece titled "Party Cat" is included in Art Jewelry Today by Dona Z. Meilach.

1Collectible Silver Jewelry by Frank Rezazadeh, pg. 199
2Artist Statement, Susan Knopp
3Splash of Color, Lapidary Journal, Nov. 1999


You can visit Susan's Jewelry online at her website

Email Susan at

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Marbeth Schon is the owner of M. Schon Modern at
   She is moderator of SilverForum
 and editor of MODERN SILVER magazine

Article by Marbeth Schon  with artist's statement by Susan Knopp
Photographs courtesy of Susan Knopp
Web design by Marbeth Schon
 Copyright © 2003 Modern Silver Magazine

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