Creating Enamel Jewelry
The enamel jewelry is getting more and more popular. This jewelry is produced both by international brands and small private workshops. But notwithstanding the brand popularity the enamel jewelry will always be in great demand among clients thanks to its quality and colorfulness, corrosion and wear resistance. Enamel jewelry is regarded to be almost everlasting wear and it doesn’t need any special care. Enamel jewelry is also easy to wear and enamel doesn’t loose its brightness and color intensity in the course of time. Its only flaw comparing to gemstones is the chance of chip off upon impact, because, in fact, the enamel is just a thin layer of glass alloy.
The process of creating enamel jewelry is quite time-consuming and often unpredictable, because one wrong move of the artist can permanently spoil the whole product. Only craftsmanship perfected over the years is able to foresee and prevent all possible defects: uneven application and bubbles in the enamel or, for example, a color change after firing. It is believed that the artist can create only four small cloisonné enamel pieces a day. The reason for this low performance is that all operations with the piece are made only by hand, from casting metal to processing after firing.
Here we’ll describe the process of making silver jewelry decorated with enamel step by step, taking NAMFLEG company as example. Having red how difficult and laborious this work is, you'll understand why each piece is unique, and often belongs to category of high-end jewelry.
So, let’s begin talking about creation of enamel jewelry ...
- The first step of the jewelry creation is, of course, the creation of its design. This task is accomplished by team of artists and designers who need to take into account all the nuances of the treatment of enamel and create a pattern that will look clear and harmonious after firing. One of the most important nuances is a color palette of enamel, which sometimes does not allow to express the desired shade. However, artists often make experiments in collaboration with enamelers, using the most unusual combinations.
- Second step in the manufacturing of jewelry is creating a metal base plate. Most preferred are metals resistant to the temperature at which the enamel melts - i.e. silver, gold or copper. In our case, we take the base plate made of 925 silver. It is cast and then polished for the greater adhesion to the enamel.
- Thin silver thread is used to form compartments or cloisones, which are filled with liquid enamel mass. As shown in the images, these laborious operations are made with tweezers. If the shape of cloisonné is complex, the wire pattern is created first, and only then it is dipped into a special solution that solders cloisonné and base plate during the firing process. Now the jewelry workpiece is ready!
- Next, the enameler prepares the enamel. The process includes milling, grinding and soaking enamel in water to achieve weight uniformity. Despite the seeming ease of this stage, it conceals plenty of professional secrets. In fact, any error may affect the final result of the whole process.
- Next, the powder mass is laid into cloisons with special spatula. This process requires maximum concentration and precision from artisan, since it’s very important to achieve clear, bright and homogeneous colors after firing. It is also important to consider that this process becomes more complicated due to the shape of jewelry. Ring is one of the most difficult shapes, because it gives the enameler a hard time to fill in all the cloisons uniformly.
- Enamel is fired in special muffle furnaces. After laying enamel into the furnace one must wait until water evaporates from the enamel mass, otherwise it will lead to cracking of the enamel in the furnace. Re-laying of enamel into the furnace after discovering any flaws becomes impossible. Enamel jewelry spends less than 5 minutes in the furnace preheated to about 800°C. Afterwards it usually becomes red-hot.
- Then pieces are removed from the oven and left to cool for some time. They mustn’t be cooled abruptly (using water, for example), since the enamel may crack.
- The last step in the jewelry creation is an accurate hand cleaning and polishing with the help of special tools. And only then we can finally say that the enamel jewelry is ready!
Having carefully considered all the stages of enamel production, we can see clear how many samplers have to be created and how many experiments should be performed and how many pieces should be spoiled before one makes the perfect jewelry. Needless to mention the importance of the professionalism of the whole team, because the final appearance of the jewelry depends on each artisan. Will it be similar to other jewelry from the collection, or will there be some barely noticeable differences due to inaccuracies in calculations and will everything be spoiled? Only the solid team and new ideas, combined with the traditions and creative enthusiasm, can cope with all the difficulties. After all, every piece of art and beauty is created by trial, error and experiments.