Feature Designer

Dichroic comes from the Greek word dikhroos which simply means two-coloured. One of the modern meanings in optical terms refers to a material that can split visible light into different wavelengths(colours).

Dichroic glass has multiple ultra-thin layers of metal oxides - we're we're talking 3-5 millionth of an inch here - which gives the glass its special optical properties. The high tech versions are used in satellite mirrors and as special filters because these optical coatings can reflect or let through (transmit) certain wavelengths of light.

But the chameleon effect of the glass with its shifting play of colours is also irresistible to jewelry artisans like Nikki who hails from London, England. She uses glass fusing techniques to make her richly hued pendants like this one in rainbow colours. The process is laborious and time consuming. The order and the specific thickness has to be determined by the artisan to get the effect they want.

I asked Nikki recently how she makes her pendants. She says she stacks different colours of dichroic on top of each other, secured with glass glue and places them in the kiln cold. The kiln is heated to 850 degrees C and held for only 10-15 minutes before being turned off. But she has to endure a cooling period of around 12 hours. Only then can she choose which pieces she wants to surround in art clay silver (ACS).

She rolls some ACS into a long snake and pushes it around the chosen piece. It mustn't be too tight around the glass to allow for shrinkage. It is then dried on a hotplate before starting up the kiln process again. She allows the piece to go totally cold so the dichroic glass anneals (strengthens and hardens). This takes around 2 days!! She has learnt to her cost impatience results in cracked glass!

Nikki has developed her technique through trial and error - she says she doesn't know if it's right or not. But hey, if it works, don't knock it! She really wanted to make her dichroic different from the commonly seen square cabochons. And by doing it her way, she doesn't have to cut glass which is not her strong suit. I rather think her "organic" shapes are fun and funky!

She also does a range of jewelry making techniques besides dichroic glass. She recently posted her commission pendant with art clay silver finding decorated with an aquamarine - note that the gemstone was added after the piece was fired otherwise the colour of the aquamarine will be affected. What does she want to continue her craft? More time and a warmer shed!

Picture with kind permission from Nikki. You can find her on metalchasers.com (link no longer available) where you can ogle her gallery.

Learn More about Dichroic Glass Jewelry and Metal Clay

For those interested in learning more about art clay silver, the Art Clay World USA site has a long list of tips and techniques 

This free tutorial on how to fuse a simple dichroic glass pendant without the silver surround looks like it might be easier to start with. Same with Mimi Bolser's Create Quick Dichroic Pendants instructions.
The Beading Gem's Journal