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Enameling as a decoration technique

Enameling is a decoration technique in which a layer of colorant is applied onto the surface of metal.

The most precious type of enamel used in jewellery making is vitreous enamel. During the firing process, that requires high temperature (700-900°C ), the powdered glass is fused to a jewel. The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating.

Some chemistry geeks may appreciate the information, that the base of enamel consists usually of quartz sand, iron oxide, potassium oxide and borax. It is transparent and colorless after firing, so to obtain a variety of colors and different stages of translucency metal oxides and chlorides are added.

Although the exact origins are unknown, the art of enameling has been practiced since ancient times in Egypt or Roman Empire. Various enameling techniques have been developed since then. The most spectacular are:

  • Cloisonné – Flattened wires are placed in a pattern on a base metal sheet. When the design is finished, the compartments are filled with the prepared fondants of different colors and fired.
  • Plique a’jour – Technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light can shine through the translucent enamel.
  • Champlevé – The figures and patterns are set in low relief on a slightly thicker plate. This is done through gravers, chisels or etching. The compartments are then filled with the colours and fired, afterwards the enamel is filed flat with a carborundum file and leveled with the surface of the metal.

Check out the Avekk Black Half Ring to see a contemporary interpretation of precious Champlevé enamel technique.

source: http://university.langantiques.com/index.php/Enamels_on_Jewelry