Archive | January, 2008

Enamel Jewelry

15 Jan

Enameling is the fusion of glass to metal under high heat conditions. It is an art form that dates back to the ancient egyptians. One of the most famous examples of enameling is the gold mask of King Tut. There are several enameling techniques. Some involve how the metal is prepared, and some involve how the enamel is applied.

enamel jewelry
Hermes Enamel Bracelet
Narrow enamel bracelet in silver and palladium plated (2.5" diameter)

Enamel is powdered glass that is somewhat finer than granulated sugar. It is also the word used to describe a metal object, such as a piece of jewelry, that has been decorated with enamel. Several techniques can be used to apply the enamel, but all methods use heat to melt the powder. Enamel particle size is measured by mesh size: the higher the mesh size, the finer the enamel powder.

The piece is heated either in a preheated furnace, or with a hand-held torch. At roughly 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat fuses the enamel permanently to the metal base. The piece is then removed and allowed to cool to room temperature. Subsequent coats can be applied. Sometimes then to twenty firings are required to bring about the desired results.

enamel bracelet
The Fellowship Link Enamel and Sterling Silver Bracelet

Enamel Jewelry
Unlike jewelry made with precious or semi-precious gemstones, enamel jewelry derives its value from the design and the skill of the craftsman. Once the enameling process is complete, the enameled piece is ground and polished to a jewel-like brilliance.

The physical properties of glass can be controlled to permit bonding to most metals-gold, platinum, silver, copper, steel, cast iron, aluminum and titanium. Enamel jewelry can also be made by using stainless steel or some other alloy as the background material.

enamel beads
Enamel Beads
Enamel beads start with a small piece of copper tubing. Then you apply the glass, a layer at a time, using a small propane torch. It's fun, quick, and easy – you don't even need a kiln.

What is Enameling?
Easy Enamel Beads Tutorial
Introduction to Enameling

Links to additional information about Enamel Jewelry:
Glass Enamel Bead Making
Shimmer and Shine with Enamel Lusters

Native American Inlay Jewelry

14 Jan

I love handcrafted jewelry. No mass-produced jewelry for me, thank you very much. What I love is the craftsmanship. Anybody can hang a bead on a chain-not being critical, it's just not my style. So it's only natural that I would love Native American Jewelry.

Multicolor Mosaic Inlay
Multicolor inlay is a popular expression of Zuni Native American art. The rainbow of colors are hand-cut pieces of Turquoise, Coral, Jet, Shell, and Mother-of-Pearl-these gemstones have special meaning in the Zuni religion. The stones are set in mosaic style, touching stone-to-stone, and secured with a silver bezel around the outside.

handmade jewelry
Multicolor Mosaic Inlay Necklace
Santa Fe artist, Juan Velasco, designed this unique sterling silver and multicolor mosaic inlay necklace. Each piece is entirely handmade, from the bold sterling borders to the perfectly matching hinges. Every link is then inlaid with tiny pieces of Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Sugilite Coral, Spiny Oyster Shell, and Mother of Pearl
that fit perfectly together to form a mosaic of color. Because each necklace is handmade, each one is a one of a kind piece. This necklace is approximately 17 inches long, but can be ordered longer or shorter to suit your preference.

These people are true artisans, who take a hunk of metal, a shell, and an uncut gemstone and craft that into a truly unique piece of wearable art. Now to me, that's jewelry making. And it's not only religious symbols and blanket designs. Some Native American jewelry is quite contemporary.

Native American jewelry
Zuni Sterling Silver Handmade Pendant
by Duran Gasper
This pendant features beautiful inlay of Coral, Mother of Pearl, Jet, and Opal. 1 3/8" Tall with bail, 5/8" wide

Cloisonné Beads

13 Jan

Cloisonné is a distinctive art form that was developed in China in the 13th century, and it has grown to be one of China's number one exports. The making of cloisonné requires several processes: hammering, wire inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, polishing, and gilding. The wire work in Cloisonné beads can be flush with the enamel or it can be raised to create a 3-dimensional look. The wire can also be twisted to add more interest.

handcrafted jewelry beads
Round Light Blue Butterfly Cloisonné Bead

Cloisonné beads are created by soldering thin metal wire partitions to a base bead to act as a color separator. A powdered colored glass paste is then painted between the partitions. After a firing and polishing process, the bead is electroplated with a gold or silver film, and a beautiful bead is born.

handmade cloisonné beads
Oval Blue/Pink/Yellow Flower Cloisonné Bead

The Process

  • The artist forms delicate strips of metal-copper, bronze, or silver-to create a design. The bends are all done at right angles, so the wire doesn't curl up. This is done with small pliers, tweezers, and custom made jigs. The cloisonné wire pattern may consist of several intricately constructed wire patterns that fit together into a larger design.
  • The wire pattern is soldered to the metal base. Using an alternative technique, the base is covered with a thin layer of clear enamel, then fired in a kiln. The cloisonné wire is then glued to the enamel surface with gum. When the gum has dried, the piece is fired again to fuse the cloisonné wire to the clear enamel. The gum burns off, leaving no residue.
  • The artist then drops colored enamels inside the partitions of the wire pattern, similar to the paint-by-numbers technique. Various colors and transparencies can be used within the same partition to obtain the desired appearance.
  • After the enamel has dried, the artist fires the piece in a kiln, which melts the enamel onto the base. Several firings may be necessary in order to build up the coatings to the height of the partitions.
  • The exposed metal is electroplated with a thin film of gold or silver to provide shine and prevent corrosion.
  • Finally, the bead is fired and polished several times to enhance the bright colors, and to produce the desired effect.
    Cloisonné Beads
    Wikipedia: Cloisonné
    Cloisonné Beading Process

Are You a Jewelry Blogger?

4 Jan

You love jewelry and accessories. You're fascinated with personal ornaments that glitters and shimmers, pieces that turns drab to fab. You keep track of the latest in the jewelry and fashion industry and you've been blogging about it.

The Jewelry Weblog needs you! See more details of what this job entails and if you think you can polish this gem of a blog to a real stunner, drop us a line at recruiting AT!