Global What is jewelry enamel? | Silvers Blog

What is jewelry enamel? | Silvers Blog


The pan­dem­ic has become the main trend­set­ter. We owe it to many of the styles and fash­ion trends that have emerged in recent times. The rebel­lious spir­it, bold­ness and bril­liance of mul­ti-col­ored 80s-style enam­el jew­el­ry have become one of the lead­ing trends. In 2021, they blew up the jew­el­ry mar­ket with their bright col­ors and unusu­al shapes to dis­tract us from the gray monot­o­ny of quar­an­tine every­day life.

Every­thing you need to know about how col­ored enam­el is used in jew­el­ry — from pro­duc­tion tech­nol­o­gy, stor­age and care rules, to out­fits with which they can be worn — read in this arti­cle.

Enamel in jewelry

The old­est jew­el­ry tech­nique in the his­to­ry of mankind is the enam­el­ing of jew­el­ry. It con­sists in dec­o­rat­ing objects with a glass coat­ing of dif­fer­ent col­ors.

The old­est acces­sories, dec­o­rat­ed with jew­el­ry enam­el, were found in ancient Egypt in the bur­ial places of pharaohs, their wives and courtiers. Molten glass imi­tat­ed pre­cious stones — turquoise, lapis lazuli and car­nelian.

The hey­day of this art fell on the Mid­dle Ages on the island of Cyprus and in Byzan­tium in the 11th-14th cen­turies. The glass pow­der par­ti­cles of the mas­ter were even placed in gold­en cages.

Dur­ing the Renais­sance, this tech­nique was used to make rings, medal­lions and fig­urines of rulers, made on a microscale.
In Geor­gia, the appli­ca­tion of enam­el on jew­el­ry is called “Menankari”. The sur­face to be enam­eled is sep­a­rat­ed by met­al plates (usu­al­ly sil­ver or gold). Enam­el is placed in each pock­et thus cre­at­ed, and then every­thing is fired. Enam­el­ing of pock­ets is repeat­ed until the desired effect is achieved. In Poland, this tech­nique is known as cel­lu­lar (or com­part­ment).

The world uses the gen­er­al term Cloi­sonne. The com­plex enam­el­ing tech­nique takes a lot of time, so enam­el is a rar­i­ty in jew­el­ry today. Some­times there are rare enam­el jew­els that have sur­vived to this day in per­fect con­di­tion. Painstak­ing work with clas­si­cal enam­el today is per­formed by a few tal­ent­ed crafts­men. They often replace it with col­ored epox­ies, which, with the right com­bi­na­tion of ingre­di­ents, cure with­out the use of heat.

Enamel in jewelry

What is enamel in jewelry?

This is a tech­nique for dec­o­rat­ing met­als using col­ored glossy coat­ings of indi­vid­ual parts of the object. First, fats and oxides are removed from the sur­face of the prod­uct. Apply the enam­el with a brush or spat­u­la. It is then fired in an oven or cured with UV light.

Jew­el­ry enam­el is glass, more pre­cise­ly glaze, col­ored with met­al oxides, with a melt­ing point of about 750–850 °C. It is suit­able for dec­o­rat­ing almost all met­als and their alloys that do not melt at the spec­i­fied tem­per­a­ture.

Ini­tial­ly, the main func­tion of jew­el­ry enam­el was to pro­tect the met­al from envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences — mois­ture, sun, defor­ma­tion. A com­plex chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion is nec­es­sary for its strong adhe­sion to the base mate­r­i­al.

Enam­el for jew­el­ry con­sists main­ly of pow­dered quartz con­tain­ing salts of sili­cic acid, oxides of sil­i­con, potas­si­um, bar­i­um, sodi­um, oxides of var­i­ous met­als that give col­or, and water. Some types of enam­el con­tain shiny par­ti­cles that cre­ate a moth­er-of-pearl shine or imi­tate rhine­stones.

Jew­el­ry enam­el is applied to a base met­al that has a high­er melt­ing point but sim­i­lar ther­mal expan­sion. Due to their respec­tive coef­fi­cient of ther­mal expan­sion and high melt­ing point, cop­per and gold are the met­als best suit­ed for enam­elling. Next, a coun­ter­remia (hatch­ing) is applied — a top coat­ing that does not crack and does not stick to the met­al due to dif­fer­ent ther­mal work and glass expan­sion. After fir­ing, the prod­uct is slow­ly cooled. Then its sur­face is ground and pol­ished.

What is enamel in jewelry?

Jewelry enamel and its main types, techniques

There is cold enam­el and hot. Hot enam­el­ing tech­nol­o­gy is more labor-inten­sive than cold enam­elling. The dec­o­ra­tion is fired in a kiln at tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from 700 to 900 °C. The process is not fast, so some man­u­fac­tur­ers pre­fer cold appli­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy, which allows one day to even­ly dis­trib­ute the enam­el on the sur­face of the jew­el­ry.

In recent years, UV-cured enam­els based on poly­mers have begun to be made, sim­i­lar to fill­ing den­tistry. Depend­ing on the prop­er­ties, poly­mer­iza­tion rate, their hard­en­ing can be from sev­er­al hours to sev­er­al min­utes or even sec­onds. Such enam­els are easy to use and tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced. The enam­el coat­ing obtained by this method is plas­tic, rarely cracks and is eas­i­ly repaired. And the short­com­ings that appear in such coat­ings are easy to elim­i­nate.

enameling techniques

  • Cel­lu­lar enam­el (cloi­sonne) of the main col­or is applied to cells con­sist­ing of fil­i­gree or thin plaques. And oth­er shades are usu­al­ly poured into sep­a­rate fields. Vari­eties of this tech­nol­o­gy are jew­el­ry slit enam­els. Recess­es are cut by engrav­ing, per­fo­ra­tion or acid etch­ing.
  • Relief enam­el (notched) requires the prepa­ra­tion of an in-depth relief, which is first filled with a sin­gle-col­or trans­par­ent mix­ture. In places where the lay­er is thin, light shades are obtained. Due to the thick­er lay­er, the col­ors become dark­er and more sat­u­rat­ed.
  • Open­work enam­el (pliqué-a-jour) is a type of stained-glass win­dow. It is often per­formed on a con­cave gem with­out a bot­tom lay­er of met­al (sub­strate), cov­ered with gold on top. Col­or­ful draw­ings are made from above, resem­bling minia­ture stained-glass win­dows. Trans­par­ent enam­el in jew­el­ry allows you to cre­ate deep and orig­i­nal light­ing effects, opaque — bold and bright shades.
  • Tran­syl­van­ian enam­el — using a wire of the appro­pri­ate shape, the sur­face of the object is divid­ed into cells. This allows you to cre­ate deep chan­nels for apply­ing the first lay­er. The shad­ing effect is formed by apply­ing many lay­ers of dif­fer­ent den­si­ties. The result­ing fields are par­tial­ly filled with enam­el so as not to com­plete­ly cov­er the wires.
  • Guil­loche enam­el (bass style) is a repeat­ing pat­tern that is man­u­al­ly engraved on the sur­face of the met­al. Its recess­es are cov­ered with enam­el. The reflect­ed light cre­ates a mes­mer­iz­ing artis­tic effect. The prod­uct is fired in a kiln. This tech­nique requires great pre­ci­sion and del­i­ca­cy, and takes a lot of time.
  • The but­ter­fly wing effect (tie-dye) is a spe­cial method of dye­ing clothes that was com­mon in the 1960s. One of the most used tech­niques in mak­ing charms for Pan­do­ra jew­el­ry. Today, both clas­sic, eth­nic, ori­en­tal, rain­bow, and mosa­ic pat­terns rem­i­nis­cent of Art Deco are pop­u­lar.

enameling techniques

How to clean enamel products

An indis­putable fact is that the enam­el on the jew­el­ry is resis­tant to impacts, scratch­es, mois­ture, thanks to which they last much longer. But it is advis­able not to expose them to strong mechan­i­cal and chem­i­cal influ­ences and not to store them in direct sun­light, as a result of which the col­or of the coat­ing may fade.

The best place for enam­el­ware is a beau­ti­ful jew­el­ry box.
When stored in a box, it is worth wrap­ping them with a soft cloth or tis­sue paper so that the ear­rings from anoth­er pair of ear­rings or the stone from the ring do not scratch the enam­el.

If it so hap­pened that per­fumes or creams got on enam­eled ear­rings or neck­laces, it is nec­es­sary to wipe them with a soft cloth after each wear­ing.

Clean­ing enam­el jew­el­ry is not par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult, and a few min­utes ded­i­cat­ed to car­ing for them con­tribute to their beau­ti­ful appear­ance.

For clean­ing you will need:

  • small bowl,
  • soft fab­ric (cot­ton or fleece),
  • soft bris­tled tooth­brush
  • boiled or dis­tilled water,
  • paper tow­els,
  • dish­wash­ing liq­uid, soap or jew­el­ry deter­gent.

First, place the jew­el­ry in a bowl of water and deter­gent for about 10 min­utes. It is bet­ter to use boiled or fil­tered water as it does not leave stains like hard water does. After 10 min­utes, remove each jew­el­ry, wipe it with a cloth, remove dirt with a soft tooth­brush. Dry the dec­o­ra­tion gen­tly with a paper tow­el and buff the sur­face with a cloth.

How and with what to wear jewelry with enamel

Mul­ti-col­ored enam­el jew­el­ry is an excel­lent chro­mother­a­py for those who lack rain­bow emo­tions in their lives. The com­bi­na­tion of con­cise forms, sim­ple geom­e­try and large sizes is con­sid­ered the most fash­ion­able. Make the main accent in the image on the bright­est and most flir­ty, unusu­al col­or schemes by wear­ing bright enam­el ear­rings and rings in the same style under a white basic T‑shirt, light blouse, sun­dress or over­sized shirt, com­plete with loose jeans.

Even if you are not a fan of too bright jew­el­ry, take a clos­er look at prod­ucts with white, black or neu­tral gray enam­el. They look incred­i­bly authen­tic and go with almost any style and fash­ion look — from street to busi­ness or evening.


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