Faux Enameling: Create the Look of Enamel Jewelry Quickly and Easily

Imagine how my little bubble burst when I found out that I had not, in fact, invented faux enameling. Humph.

But then I realized that even though someone beat me to it, basically stealing away the fame and fortune that was sure to come to me from it (ha!), I'd still had a great idea. And you know what I like to do with a great idea: share it!

So, here's my (and evidently a few other people's) great idea for achieving the look of enameling without the use of a kiln or even a torch: embossing. All you need are the pigments (embossing powders, in this case, instead of enameling powders), embossing ink (clear or colored, your choice), and a heat gun (instead of a torch or kiln). Note: You really do need the heat gun; a hairdryer just won't work, because it has too much force and blows the powders right off the ink. These are all inexpensive supplies that you can find at just about any craft store, and embossing powders come in a gazillion colors, just like enameling powders.

Bonus: Embossing powders pretty much look the same color they will always be, before and after the fact. You don't have to test and try to remember what color embossing powders turn into like you do with enameling powders after they have been fired.

Here's the embossing setup:

If you've ever done embossing for scrapbooking and paper crafts, you know the drill: stamp, tap on, tap off, heat. For the rest of you, here's the simple how-to:

1. Take the lid off your embossing powders. You'll want it at the ready. 

2. Put whatever you're embossing on a piece of paper that you can fold and use to collect the excess powder later, just like when working with glitter.

3. Press your stamp of choice into embossing ink and then onto the item you're embossing.

4. Immediately sprinkle embossing powder liberally onto the stamped design. Embossing ink doesn't dry super fast, but you still want to be quick about it.

before and after heating

5. Lift the item and shake off the excess embossing powder. Fold the paper underneath it and funnel the excess powder back into the container. Just like glitter, it's hard to tell you've ever really used any.

6. Put the embossed item back on your work surface and heat by holding an embossing heat gun just a few inches from the surface. Watch closely and you'll see the surface start to change, get shiny and melty. Just watch until it appears to have all melted together and gets its shine back. That's it!

Caution: Whatever you just held under the heat gun will be HOT. Be careful when you pick it up or move it. Tongs or tweezers would be a great idea.

The same rose stamp on vellum paper, brass sheet, brass mesh, and a mother-of-pearl focal piece. I smudged the hot powders on the mother-of-pearl with a craft stick for a painted look.

Faux Enameling (Embossing) Tips and Some Lessons Learned

  • You don't have to use a stamp, you can sprinkle on embossing powders "freestyle" just like you would tap on enamel powders. You can paint liquid embossing ink on whatever you want to coat with embossing powders (it serves as the glue to keep the powders from falling off or blowing away) and proceed with the heat gun.
  • You can drag a toothpick or stylus through the melty powders while they're still hot to make designs.
  • When I embossed on a piece of brass sheet, the powders wanted to stick everywhere, not just on the inked areas. You can use a little brush to brush the extra powder away, but be careful not to brush away your design. I think static might have been the culprit.
  • I tested glitter embossing powders on metal mesh as well as on metal and paper. One the screen, they lost their sparkle, for some reason, but it remained on the metal and paper. That's just another reason it's always good to test before using a prized supply for your faux enameling.
  • Embossing powders can be coarse (sometimes called "ultra thick" or fine, just like enameling powders, as well as opaque and translucent. It's fun to experiment to get the looks you want.
  • An added bonus with embossing powders is that they come in metallics! That opens up a whole new bunch of possibilities for making unique jewelry and creating metal-on-metal looks or even mimic mokume gane.
  • Embossed designs can be much more detailed than enameled designs. Just choose a stamp with clear lines and use fine embossing powder.
"Freestyle" mixed and single-color enamel powders on metal (base, brass, and copper) charms. The teardrop on the right was created with a texture stamp.

Give it a try! It's a fun, easy, versatile technique that's ideal for using with paper and resin–even fabric!!–to create faux enameled jewelry. You can turn any rubber stamp into an enameled-looking design in just a few minutes!

You'll see more fun faux enameling in the current (bigger and better!) issue of Handcrafted Jewelry, a lively jewelry-making publication that covers all the quick and fun jewelry-making techniques, such as stringing, resin, mixed-media, fibers, and more. Pre-order or instantly download Handcrafted Jewelry!

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