Sunday, May 20, 2012

How Enamel Jewelry is Made

By on Sunday, May 20, 2012 7 Comments

Enamel jewelry and art go back thousands of years. These were and still are created in many different parts of the world. Perhaps the best known form for modern jewelry makers are cloisonne beads from China.  But you can also make your own.



This technique uses a kiln to fire crushed or powdered colored glass (enamel) onto metal. The heat melts the glass and fuses it to the metal. The results can be incredibly beautiful. The above drop dead gorgeous design is called Dawn Dragonfly by Marianne Hunter (Photographer : Hap Sakwa).

The Victoria and Albert Museum of Design (London, UK) has a wonderful video which shows how Jane Short created the enamelled brooch below.  She uses two other styles of enamelling. The top intricate half of the design uses the champlevé technique where the glass fills the hollows or "cells" in the metal. (This is different from cloisonne work which uses wire frames).  The bottom half deploys the basse-taille technique where the engraved metal is covered over with transparent enamel

Enamelled brooch by Jane Short

Close up of brooch showing the basse-taille work



Yet another technique is plique-a-jour - French for "glimpse of day".  It's basically equivalent to stained glass where the enamel is suspended between wires. This is the most difficult of all the enamel techniques. The translucent effect is stunning.   Art Nouveau artists like René Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany used this technique to design some of their masterpieces.

Below is the 1900 Lalique anemone brooch which fetched nearly $150,000 at a Sotheby's auction last year. It was created with gold and enamel plique-a-jour.

Picture Source
Jewelry Making Daily's free eBook How to Enamel Jewelry is also another excellent resource to find out more about how enameled jewelry is made. You do have to register with them (free) to get the download. The dragonfly and star designs shown above and below are by featured artists from this ebook.

Starfish design by Amy Roper Lyons
Even if you have no plans to take up enamel jewelry making, the eBook is worth a look to learn more.

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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7 comments:

  1. these are beautiful...a centuries old technique that is still mesmerising

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  2. I agree. I wonder how many people are going to be inspired enough to consider taking it up?

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  3. I just recently bought a kiln and would love to give enamel work a try. I've done a few small glass fusing projects and have fallen in love with kiln firing!! I will have to check out that eBook and maybe give enameling a try!!

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  4. You've just made me incredibly jealous as I would love to own a kiln! I am sure you will have oodles of fun with your new toy.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Yes, you can indeed do some enamel work with a torch. I will be reviewing a book in the next few weeks which shows how this can be done! Not sure how finely you would be able to grind the glass though.

    The book is Heat, Color, Set and Fire by Mary Hettsmansperger.

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