Enamel is actually made from coloured, molten glass. All of the enamel colours used in jewellery manufacturing begin their life as solid crystals of glass. These are gently ground down into tiny grains of coloured glass, which resemble sand. Special quills made of swan, peacock, or goose feathers are used by artisans to carefully apply the glass grains onto the piece of jewellery.
This requires a very steady hand, a good eye and – it goes without saying – years and years of practice! The quill is carefully dipped into a pot of ground glass, and each tiny coloured glass grain is individually applied to the jewellery by hand. Almost all of the colours used in jewellery manufacturing has to be blended with a number of different source colours. The artist does so by gently stippling between one colour to the next in the area that is enamelled to create an almost imperceptible colour flow.
Once all of the grains of glass have been applied to the piece of jewellery, then it has to be “fired” or heated up in a kiln. To create the finished enamel, the jewellery is placed into a special kiln, and then it is heated up until the glass grains melt. This process requires temperatures of over 800° Celsius within the oven. Only one piece of jewellery can be put into the kiln at a time because the enameller has to take great care that they do not leave it in for too long or it will be ruined.
Each piece of enamelled jewellery requires a different length of firing time. A small earring may be done in less than a minute, but a large pendant may take three minutes or more.
For more information about our guide to enamels call Nettletons Jewellers Clitheroe on 01200 422127 today.