Enameling Basic Information and Suppliers
OK. First things first.
The type of enameling I use to make my enamel jewelry is referred to as vitreous enamel. It is actually finely ground glass powder that is applied to either copper or fine silver. It can be applied using a variety of techniques and is then fused using using a torch or kiln (my preferred method). Although a torch can be used, we're not talking about a creme bruleé torch here. The fusing takes place between 1380° and 1550°F and is held for several minutes depending on the weight and size of the metal, as well as the specific color(s) begin used. You'll need a torch capable of reaching a high temperature and holding it for several minutes for each application. While the enamel is being fired, it goes through three basic stages; Sugar (like the top of a sugar cookie) to Orange Peel (like the surface of an orange) and finally to Glossy when the enamel has a smooth, glossy finish.
There are those who use enamel paint on surfaces such as plastic and clay, so be aware. Vitreous enamel is actually glass, not paint. It won't fade under ultraviolet light and is chemically resistant, scratch resistant, and easy to clean.
The enamel jewelry I offer you has between 4 and 8 layers of enamel, each one fired and cooled before the next is applied. The reason for this is that the coefficients of thermal expansion for the glass and that of the metal either needs to be the same or I need to make it the same by means of counter-enameling which only means that enamel needs to be applied to both front and back in order to keep the glass from cracking.
Vitreous enamel jewelry is commonly made up of either copper and enamel or fine silver and enamel. Vitreous enamel won't work with sterling silver unless the silver goes through a depletion process which makes little sense to me because the time it takes far outweighs the extra expense of starting with fine silver in the first place. Normally I only use fine silver if I am working solely with transparents. Most Cloisonné artists only use fine silver. Here is an example of a Cloisoneé piece by Ricky Frank, an amazing enameling artist and teacher. You can read up on this process by following the link to his website.
If you're interested in learning how to enamel, I would suggest watching a few of Ricky's videos and checking out Laura Bracken. Her tutorials are extremely well priced, beginning at only $4.98!
I hope this gives a little insight to the wonderful word of enameling. Careful though, It's addictive!😍