Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An impure oxide of cobalt, used to produce a blue color in enamel and in the making of smalt.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pigment obtained, usually by roasting cobalt glance with sand or quartz, as a dark earthy powder. It consists of crude cobalt oxide, or of an impure cobalt arseniate. It is used in porcelain painting, and in enameling pottery, to produce a blue color, and is often confounded with smalt, from which, however, it is distinct, as it contains no potash. The name is often loosely applied to mixtures of zaffer proper with silica, or oxides of iron, manganese, etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A pigment obtained, usually by roasting cobalt glance with sand or quartz, as a dark earthy powder. It consists of crude cobalt oxide, or of an impure cobalt arseniate. It is used in porcelain painting, and in enameling pottery, to produce a blue color, and is often confounded with smalt, from which, however, it is distinct, as it contains no potash. The name is often loosely applied to mixtures of zaffer proper with silica, or oxides of iron, manganese, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The residuum of cobalt-producing ores after the sulphur, arsenic, and other volatile matters have been more or less completely expelled by roasting.

Etymologies

Italian zaffera, from Old French safre, perhaps alteration of safir, sapphire; see sapphire, or from Arabic ṣufr, yellow copper, brass, from 'aṣfar, yellow; see ṣpr2 in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • The search for native cobalt, especially outside of Saxony or the Erzgebirge, was tied to the development of zaffer and smalt industries — refined versions of cobalt used by painters and in vitreous colormaking — and to recognition of the quality of the cobalt-based colors.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • This caused the liquid to harden and, according to Peckitt, it also extracted harmful salts. reference The zaffer-niter compound was dried and powdered: a quantity of this mixture was added to a crucible (“pot”) of molten glass to create the desired blue color. reference

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Instructions for creating zaffer blue, a color found on the plaque, called for firing the zaffer in a reverberating furnace for about twelve hours, followed by the addition of vinegar and by grinding and washing. reference This prepared zaffer was then mixed with the universal fondant and melted on a high heat.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • The resulting glass was broken up and ground again — at this point it could be used as an underglaze, painted directly on the ceramic form. 4 reference To adapt this formula to painting on a glaze as here, the zaffer would be dissolved in aqua fortis, washed, and then combined with an equal portion of fondant.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • The degree of fineness that could be achieved depended on a combination of characteristics, including the quality of the ore, the proportions of ore to flint and sand in the zaffer mixture, and the degree of fineness to which that mixture was ground before firing.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Once prepared, zaffer would be ground again, for use as a vitreous coloring material, in glazes and enamels.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Stamping and sifting was the next stage, before conversion into zaffer.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Ground zaffer was also the basis of the painters 'material smalt.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • For about two centuries before that determination, cobalt was prepared in Europe, converted to zaffer to make blue-colored glass and blue enamel, and from zaffer to smalt for painting.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • In general, the preparation technique called for the addition of coloring materials — metal oxides — to the molten glass mixture before molding or blowing or otherwise shaping: Peckitt's description of "A deep Blue Colour upon Glass" may be similar to the technique used to create the blue border here. 6 If so, his process was based on a mixture of zaffer and niter. reference The two were ground together and then added slowly into a hot crucible.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

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