Making Enameled Jewelry: Champlevé, Cloisonné, and Other Kiln and Torch Enameling Techniques
I’ve been “researching” enameling project ideas on Pinterest more hours than I’d like to admit lately! Making enameled jewelry is still one of my favorite techniques, and I’m always looking for new ways to use enamels in my work as well as new techniques to try. Pauline Warg’s book, Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Making Enameled Jewelry, includes step-by-step tutorials in specialty wet-packing and dry-sifting enameling techniques like champlevé, cloisonné, using glass threads and beads, screen enameling, various types of stenciling, and more. It’s making me want to try all the things! So little time.
If you aren’t familiar with these specialty techniques for making enameled jewelry, here are a few brief excerpts from Pauline’s book to tempt you. (In the book, these and the other technique descriptions are followed by step-by-step tutorials not shown here.)
Making Enameled Jewelry: Enameling Techniques
By Pauline Warg
Excerpted portions from Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Making Enameled Jewelry
Making Enameled Jewelry: Stenciling
Stenciling, or blocking out, is one of my favorite dry-sifting techniques, because it provides endless color and design possibilities. It involves using a piece of paper, metal, leaf, or other object to create a design on top of a base coat of enamel. There are many different options for materials that can be used to either block out or stencil, including manila folders, Mylar, leaves, wire, paper, and metal. The technique varies slightly depending on which materials you use. (See the Stenciled Earrings project on page 42 for instructions on using wire as a stencil.) It’s also possible to do complex multiple blocking out and stenciling on one piece.
Making Enameled Jewelry: Cloisonné
Cloisonné is a method of creating cells from thin strips of fine silver, copper, or fine gold, applying them to the surface of metal, then wet packing enamel into them and firing. The process can develop detailed and beautiful or simple and dramatic designs. It’s helpful for anyone attempting cloisonné to have experience using jeweler’s pliers. The wire is very delicate and can be frustrating to form if you’re not familiar with using pliers.
I recommend practicing making shapes with thin flat wire before sitting down to make a jewelry piece. A good way to do this is to draw the desired design on a sturdy piece of paper, such as a manila folder. The flat wire most typically used for cloisonné is 30-gauge by 1 mm. Anneal and pickle some of this wire. Hold the wire over the drawing and begin bending it, following the lines of the drawing. The wire is so fine and soft that it will conform easily if guided by the tips of the pliers. If you make a mistake, carefully straighten out the wire and start again.
Making Enameled Jewelry: Screen on Enamel
Fine silver screen or copper screen may be used with enamels to help lay down a grid for designing. Many different effects can be derived from this technique. If using fine silver screen, the process is much cleaner, as the fine silver does not create oxides during the process. Copper screen is much more readily available, but needs to have the oxides removed and cleaned off after every firing.
Making Enameled Jewelry: Champlevé
This is one of my favorite enameling techniques. Being a jeweler and metalsmith, I like it because it involves more work with the metal.
Champlevé is French for “raised field.” In this technique, there is one layer of sheet metal that will have a design pierced out of it with a jeweler’s saw. That layer is then silver soldered onto a solid sheet metal back plate. The openings of the pierced design are then gradually filled with enamel. The lines of metal around the pierced openings are wider and more pronounced than the delicate lines created by cloisonné wires.
You can also simply use different-sized drill bits to drill holes, creating a dot pattern that can then be enameled. –PW
If you’re ready to learn jewelry enameling or add special effects to your enamel jewelry-making ability with an expert’s guidance, rely on Pauline Warg. Her book includes technique tutorials for all of these specialty techniques and others–plus 20 inspiring step-by-step enamel jewelry projects, an enamel troubleshooting feature, and both torch-fired and kiln-fired enameling setup information and tutorials. It’s a thorough resource that any jewelry maker who is interested in enameling, no matter what level, could learn from and enjoy.