Found this great site which provides a nifty guide to enamelling for jewellery.

Some useful information on enamelling can also to be found on the Jewelry Lovers blog.

some enamelling techniques:

  • Basse-Taille (Low Cut): Enamel (usually transparent) is fired onto a textured metal. Light reflected on the textured surfaces can create an interesting effect.
  • Champlevé (Raised Plane): Enamel is fired into depressed areas of metal to form a level surface. Engraving or acid can be used to remove the metal afterwards.
  • Cabochonné: Layering of translucent enamels to produce an imitation of a cabochon.
  • Cloisonné: Fine (Cloisonné) wires are used to create cells which are filled with enamel.
  • Grisaille: A build up of coats of white enamel forming interesting grey/white tones.
  • On Glaze/Overglaze Colours: Oil- or water-based finely ground enamels that can be applied and fired onto a pre-enamelled surface.
  • Plique à jour: A ‘stained glass’ effect where cells are constructed (like cloisonné) but the back is uncovered so that light can shine through.
  • Sgraffito: a design is scratched into unfired enamel to expose metal or an enamel coat underneath.


Many awesome examples of enamelling can be found in art nouveau jewellery where vivid colours were used to depict nature in all its splendour. While a whole range of enamelling techniques were used, perhaps the most important technique was plique à jour – often used to create delicate insect wings and leaves. For some fine examples of enamelling in art nouveau jewellery refer to the work of Rene Lalique, Georges Fouquet, Louis Aucoc, and Etienne Tourette.

Rene Lalique - Corsage Ornament 1897-98

slightly domed circular cufflinks with a
transparent blue enamel layer

MATERIALS: standard silver sheet, silver cufflink fittings, transparent blue enamel powder

TECHNIQUES: annealing, doming, soldering, enamelling, filing, sanding

TOOLS: cutter, barrel polisher soldering tools, wet and dry paper, flat file, kiln, enamelling tools

PROCESS:

  1. Cut metal sheet into 2 circles of desired size (using hole cutter).
  2. Anneal and gently dome each circle using a doming block.
  3. Sand the edges by moving in a figure-of-eight on emery/wet and dry paper.
  4. File the back of the cufflink fittings so that they will fit snugly onto the domes.
  5. Solder the fittings on using hard solder. When soldering make sure the barrels are ‘out’ (as they would be when wearing them) so that they don’t melt, and only attach tweezers to where the steel pin connects the two parts of the fitting to avoid bending the heated silver.
  6. Prepare the enamel. Crush the powder (or rock) in water using a mortar and pestle until it is the consistency of a fine icing – rinse numerous times, lastly with distilled water and place in a small container with a little distilled water covering it.
  7. Prepare the silver for enamelling by brushing with a glass fibre brush, detergent and water. The final rinse should be with distilled water (wear gloves to avoid getting glass fibres in you hands!).
  8. Use a fine art brush to dab on the enamel. Apply an even coating – not to thick or thin, too dry or wet. Blot excess water and place on top of the preheating kiln to dry out (until the enamel looks like frost crystals).
  9. Place the cufflinks on ceramic fibreboard and stilts and place in the kiln (I think around 900-1000 degrees, but perhaps this depends on the type of enamel). Check after a minute or so – it’s better to check to early and have to return the item to the kiln than it is over-fire. If the piece is still looking crystalline it probably needs more time, but if it looks kind of smooth and glassy (but perhaps a different colour to what you were expecting) then it’s probably ready to remove. Place the items on top of the kiln for a few minutes before moving them elsewhere so that they can cool down slowly.
  10. Pickle after enamelling but don’t leave in the pickle for too long as it can affect the colour.
  11. Use a diagrit to remove excess enamel from the edges.
  12. Barrel polish.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • The kiln is very hot and can melt silver so it’s best use a reasonably thick sheet. Also always use hard solder (or enamelling solder).
  • Enamel can be re-fired (adding more enamel, cloisonné wires etc. as you go)
  • Enamel is best used on a recessed area where it is protected. Before I had a chance to remove excess enamel from the edges of one my cufflinks, the enamel started flaking so I had to retouch and re-fire it.
  • Colour results can be unpredictable. Luckily the light blue transparent enamel that I used turned out to be a lovely shade.

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have done some more sanding to make sure the backs were a bit smoother and tried to get a more evenly domed surface.

Hmmm. Must do some future posts on enamelling.