Enamelling, an attractive and popular jewellery-making technique, is the process of fusing powdered glass onto the surface of a piece of metal jewellery. Historically, enamelling was performed in many different ancient civilisations and was usually applied to glassware or pottery. Today, the glass powder used in enamelling comes in many different colours and can be combined to create complex multicoloured patterns on a variety of materials. Most often in jewellery making, enamel is applied to the surface of metal bracelets or pendants, although you can use enamel on any metal piece you like.
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Things you need
- Metal jewellery piece
- Small paintbrushes
- Diluted gum Arabic
- Counter-enamel powder
- Enamel flux
- Purified enamel powder
- Infrared light
- Fireproof gloves
- Firing fork
- Fire brick
Apply diluted gum Arabic with a paintbrush to the parts of the metal jewellery piece that you do not want coated with enamel. This is normally the underside of the piece, but can also be part of the design pattern on the surface of the metal.
Coat the metal with counter-enamel powder, covering only the parts that you painted with gum Arabic.
Paint enamel flux onto the rest of the metal surface. This will help the enamel adhere to your metal jewellery.
Apply the purified enamel powder directly over the flux, using a clean paintbrush. Make sure to cover all desired areas.
Dry the jewellery piece completely under an infrared light. This will prevent water molecules from ruining the enamel.
Determine the type of enamel used in your paste, and check the firing temperature suggested by the manufacturing company. Firing temperatures can range from 750 degrees Celsius to 950 degrees Celsius, depending on the hardness of the enamel type.
Fire the kiln to the accurate temperature and put on your fireproof gloves. Place the jewellery piece on top of a trivet and, using a firing fork, insert the trivet into the kiln. Close the kiln door.
Let the jewellery piece fire for as long as suggested by the manufacturing company, or until the enamel has completely melted. When finished, put on your fireproof gloves and remove the jewellery from the kiln with the firing fork.
Place the jewellery piece onto a fire brick to cool.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure that your jewellery piece is completely clean before applying enamel, so that there are no oils or oxidation present.
- Enamel powder is purified through repeated rinsing with water, which also makes it wet enough to adhere to the surface of the metal.
- You can also fire enamel using a basic propane torch. Place the jewellery piece on top of a fire brick with the enamelled side facing upward, and move the flame evenly over the piece.
- Avoid bronze, brass or nickel silver for enamelling, as these metals are notoriously difficult to enamel.
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