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Old Techniques Meet Our New Tech

Just because we make jewelry inspired by museum pieces doesn’t mean we do everything old-fashioned. Brian wouldn’t want to polish stones by rubbing them against another rock, and you can have my jeweler’s saw when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. On that note, we recently acquired a piece of modern equipment that will help us take our jewelry to the next level!

A LASER PRINTER!

“Are you serious?!” you may be asking, “How can a laser printer help you make jewelry?”

Well, now I can transfer my hand drawings to metal. That means I can engrave, saw and even do acid etching a million times faster than before. But the big kicker is that now I can easily add enamels to my work in ways that won’t make your wallet cry. You get really authentic, REAL glass enameled jewelry, just like what your persona would have worn, and I get to feed the Little One and have electricity and make more beautiful things.

It’s a win-win!

Here’s my first test piece, along with a little pendant I made to go with it. It was inspired by this brooch from Roman Britain.

Look for some gorgeous antiqued and enamelled pieces in the shop soon!

So – What would You like to see Enameled? Celtic Knotwork? Medieval Monograms? Let me know in the Comme

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My First Cloisonné Enamel Piece

I love to use color in my work. I may wear all black every day, but I love color. That’s why I decided to try enamelling. There’s only so much you can do with gemstones to add color anyway, and enamelling has been used in jewelry to do just that for thousands of years. The type of enamel work I’m talking about is vitreous enamel. It’s pretty much colored glass ground up so fine that it’s like sand or sugar. You put the glass grains on a backing material – gold, copper or fine silver for jewelry – then put it in a kiln or hit it with a torch. This melts the grains of glass and fuses them together to make a smooth surface. It seems like there’s as many different ways to use enamel on jewelry as there are for using paint on a canvas, and just like with paint, it can be simple or complex.

The enamelling technique I decided to try is cloisonné. It invloves the use of thin strips of metal or wire to make cells (cloisons in French) that are then adhered to a backing material and filled in with (usually) different colors of enamel. The cloisons can be used to separate the colors, or be an important design element in and of themselves. Upon reading this article on Ganoksin, I was inspired to make a pendant after the designs on the gold rings from Kouklia in Cyprus, some of the oldest examples of cloisonné enamel ever found. The rings date from around the 13th century, BC.

For my first piece, I decided to use transparent enamel with fine silver. The technique I used to apply the enamel is wet-packing, where the grains of glass are mixed with distilled water and applied with a brush or small spatula. I made a little animated gif of the process, which goes roughly like this:

  1. The shaped cloisons are stuck in place, fused with a layer of clear enamel
  2. Wet-packing in the first layer of color. I used a fine sable brush.
  3. The first layer dry and ready to fire. Note the color change.
  4. Layer one is fired!
  5. This is after a few layers. You can see it’s quite high, almost to the top of the wires. I also decided to try blending from light to dark blue on the curly bits.
  6. Fired and looking good. The jewel tones are gorgeous! Almost finished…
  7. After the final firing. The wires are still a little high, but those will be ground down.
  8. The metal and glass surfaces have been ground down to be even with one another, and the enamel itself is finished!
  9. Now it’s a pendant and ready to wear.

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