Enameling on Steel

**** Glass on Metal has a great article by Charles Winkle, Enameling on Steel. ****

Order this today http://www.glass-on-metal.com/current_issue/index.html

The enamel used here is a liquid, called Ground Coat. It is a bit had to find on Thompson’s site so here is a direct link


Enameling on Brass

Everyday someone visits this site asking if they can enamel on brass. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Lewis whom has not only developed torch firing enamels but has produced a line of brass jewels for enameling.

Here at her store you can pick up and the supplies and instruction you need to achieve enameling on brass! She sells Thompson’s Unleaded Enamels for this so if you already have your enamels get some of her brass jewels and get started playing!


Happy enameling!

The Gum Bichromate Process for Enamels on Steel

Demo by Brenda Radford,  The Gum Bichromate Process for Enamels

This process is an old photographic printing technique, and I learned it from Gretchen Goss in a workshop she gave in Oakland, California in 2009.  She adapted it from photography colleagues at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

I have always been interested in creating images in enamel and this process, though it can be labour intensive, captured my imagination and so I have continued my learning and experimentation in my own studio.  I have created a line of jewelery based on the famous swans we have here in Stratford (some of them come down our stream to visit my studio) and on theatre related images.

Recommended reading on the subject:

Photographers Formulary – instructions for Gum Bichromate – gum printing www.photoformulary.com

Webb, Randall & Reed, Martin  Alternative Photographic Processes:  A Working Guide for Image Makers

James, Christopher The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes Clifton Park, New York

Livick, Stephen  Gum Printing Toronto: Stephen Livick 2001


●      a well ventilated space

●      a source of water, preferably warm

●      a kiln

●      a spray booth for applying emulsion (see photo)

●      compressed air and gravity fed dual action airbrush

●      enclosed exposure booth with a UV light source or photo bulbs 12-18” above surface (see photo)


●      B/W negative laser printed transparencies

●      photoshop or other photo editing software

●      greyscale images in the size of the finished artwork

●      ceramic oxides – black and dark colours

●      gum arabic

●      potassium dichromate (label it poison)

●      ml measure with tube

●      teaspoon measure

●      porcelain coated steel 24 ga cut to size

●      prepared copper (counter enamelled, white or light colour foundation stoned down)

●      plate of glass that is not UV protected

●      photography developing trays

●      gram scale

●      glass beaker 250 ml

●      liquid thermometer with clip

●      glass stirring rod

●      small crock pot or hot plate

●      plastic funnel

●      clean hydrogen peroxide bottle or other darkened plastic bottle

●      plastic film container

●      panty hose

●      minute/second digital timer

●      gloves and mask



●      use your own negatives as long as they are the same size as your finished artwork

●      for all other images:  using photoshop or other photo editing program, convert to greyscale, increase the contrast, resize to the size of your finished piece and finally, invert the image so it is a negative.

●      print your image negatives on a laser printer as a transparency

●      cut each image out, leaving some space around the image for handling


●      potassium dichromate is purchased in crystalline form – you have to mix it with water, as follows:

●      heat 200ml distilled water in a glass beaker to 120 degrees F on hot plate or in crock pot.  Use a thermometer clipped to the side of the beaker

●      add 40 grams of potassium dichromate and stir with a glass rod until dissolved

●      using a funnel, pour the solution into a clearly marked darkened plastic bottle.  It will store for some time.


●      make sure surface is clean of all grease and oil using whatever you normally use: pumice, windex, heat cleaning, etc but make sure it is CLEAN

●      if you want to create more than one piece at once, without touching the surface of the clean metal, use masking tape to attach all of them to a piece of cardboard

●      move prepared metal to spray booth.  Stand vertically against back wall


●      into an old film container or other container that closes tightly, mix 30 grains (a scant teaspoon) of oxide, 6 ml of potassium dichromate (solution) and 6 ml gum arabic.  Shake vigourously to mix and remove all lumps.  You can sieve through panty hose to ensure no lumps

●      pour emulsion into bowl of airbrush


●      set airbrush regulator at 35-50 psi

●      keep airbrush 12” away from the surface while spraying

●      apply in very thin coats, starting the spray off the edge of the enamel surface, turning the metal or cardboard 1/4 turn after each coating for an even and consistent application

●      move cardboard with sprayed enamels to the light booth.  (Emulsion is viable up to 20 minutes)

●      do not touch sprayed surface


●      once the sprayed pieces are on the floor of the exposure booth, place the transparency negatives on the surface of the emulsion (dull side down for a film negative)

●      you can place a piece of non UV coated glass over the negatives to hold them tight to the surface

●      turn the light(s) on and time for 15 minutes


●      develop in warm water, upside down, agitating slightly

●      experimentation at this stage results in many variations

●      while wet the oxide is extremely fragile so touching it to anything will wipe it right off

●      let dry with enamel propped vertically

●      once dry, the surface is more durable and can be drawn or painted on, or rubbed off to create brighter whites


●      fire at 1450 F for about a minute

●      repeated firings can eliminate the image

●      varied temperature and time will create different results

Thank you Brenda for sharing this! Visit Brenda at  www.radfordstudio.com

Enameling on Sterling Silver

Tom enameling his Sterling Silver Egg.

He has made this to support a gorgeous Chased Gold and Blue Lapis with Diamond Bracelet.

I asked Tom how he planned to enamel this sterling silver egg. He plans to paint Klyre Fire on and sift the enamels. I asked are you planning to counter enamel it? And he said he did not want to.  But he knew he wanted opaque enamels.

Here you can see the egg open, and a bit more of the bracelet. Tom has some leaded enamels with several shades of blue. He is going for a look, close to that of the lapis. I  mentioned he would need to deplete the surface. This means to raise the fine silver by heating to a red glow and quenching it in acid or pickle bath. He is removing the copper from the surface so the enamel will adhere to it. I have read it can take 4 times. I use 18k gold in my work and when I want to remove the copper in the surface layer before I begin enameling, I have had best results heating and quenching 7 – 10 times.

Tom has enameled and started sanding to get his final finish on the enamel, using sanding pads and in his last application he plans to use cerium oxide. In this case it is not necessary to counter enamel  this piece because it is domed and he is only apply a thin coat of enamel. Remember thick metal =  thin enamel. He did not have to use flux because his choice of blue will not burn against the silver. But he is unhappy with the uneven surface of the enamels, and believes he had some soft and some hard firing in the group.

After several attempts to sand and re – fire the enamels still are not smooth. An option at this point could be to apply a top coat such as Ninomiya N4. that is a soft firing enamel.

With his multiple firing bubbles started forming. The depleted surface on the sterling silver was not sufficient, for this many firings. He was heating at 1450 for up to 5 minutes. One thing I have found to avoid some of the bubbles would be to raise the temperature thus shortening  the firing time. The enamels on the surface will melt faster and give the underneath metal less time to heat.  At this point he has to clean or break any bubbles that might hit the surface on this last firing of a soft enamel. A soft enamel means it will flow at a faster rate than a medium enamel thus not firing long enough for the bubbles to resurface.

And a beautiful Enamel Jewel!

Enameling with Argentium 970

Argentium 970 is currently sold in grain and only from this one dealer, G&S Metals. I just spoke with them and asked why they do not offer it in sheet and other forms. The answer was they have not had the request for offering it. I explained the interest of enamelist. And was told they have a blog on the home page top left. They would be happy to listen.So enamelist here is an opportunity.   www.gsgold.com/ blog away!

I will purchase the grain and start some testing for plique a jour. I do not see a need for cloisonne as fine silver is great. But it would also be a good metal for vessels.

Happy Enamels

Enamel on Brass

You can enamel on brass.  Art Enameling on Metals by H.H. Cunynghame refers to enameling on brass. And Thompson’s Enamel sells it. Gilder’s Metal  is how it is listed and it is copper with a bit of zinc, 95% – 5 %.  It works with transparent enamels, sold for gold, silver, and copper, = medium expansion enamels, according to the their experts and you have no need for flux as it does not oxidize like copper.

Don’t fire it too often. After three or more firings, the enamel can jump off. Enamelled badges and emblems are very often made of gilding metal.

Enameling on Steel

“When Joseph Trippetti returned from the Army in 1946, he studied for three years at Philadelphia College of Art and the fourth year at Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts in England, where he majored in silversmithing. He has been enameling since the 1950s. For some years he taught enameling and painting before concentrating on commissions and gallery exhibitions. The medieval tapestries still influence his designs. His cloisonnés were on domed copper plaques before he turned to large steel tiles.”

Musician: 16″ x 16″, silver cloisonné wires. steel, enamel.

“Design is my main interest. My method of enameling has remained about the same these many years. Originally, my work was mainly of cloisonné on domed copper plaques. I trained as a metalsmith. For the past 15 years I have been working on white pre-coated, flanged, steel plaques, ranging in size from 6″ x 6″ to 16″ x 20″. Using the pre-coated, steel tiles I do not have to be concerned with cleaning the metal and applying base coats. I use primarily 80 mesh opaque, leaded, unwashed enamels, though I also have some 150 mesh enamels and some unleaded enamels that I use when I need those colors. To use them all in one piece, the unleaded enamel needs to be under the leaded enamel and not on top. The enamels, wet with water, are wet packed with a brush almost to the top of the wires, and then the piece is tapped to level out the enamel and fired. Before each firing, any opaque enamel on the wires is removed with a fine pointed brush. It usually takes about 8 to 10 applications of the enamel, tapping and firing for the fired enamel to reach almost the top of the wires.

The final firing, with just a thin sifting of either soft or medium flux over the whole piece, is a healthy firing with the kiln at 1500°F before inserting the plaque into the kiln. I do not wet the piece for the sifted coat.  For me, the most important stage in the making of each enamel is the pen drawing of my design.”

You can read more on his techniques in the book Enameling with Profressionals, by Lilyan Bachrach, and it is posted on Gonaskin’s Webite at www.ganoksin.com

The pre-coated steel tiles he mentioned here, are squares of steel coated with a white opaque flux, ready to enamel. You can purchase them from Thompson”s Enamel.

Excellent Work!

Enameling on Argentium 970

This seems like a wonderful opportunity to use Argentium instead of fine silver for applications such as plique a jour. I am anxoius to experiment with the Argentium in this medium. I have enameled on the 925 and it justgot cloudy,  and did not see the advantage of Argentium verses Fine Silver, for cloiosnne, but for the application of plique a jour it is a stronger surface.

I hesitate to use fine silver in larger pieces and have use 18k gold in it place because of the durability. But with the cost of gold these days Argentium could come in very handy. Sterling sliver is not one of my favorites due to the fire scale developing during the enameling process. There are acids one can use to remove this but then there is always the problem of discoloring your enamels.

Argentiun; from the website of G&S Metals. And BTW is the only place I have found selling Argentium 970 .

What is the Difference Between Sterling Silver and Argentium in Settings?

The most important difference is that Argentium can be hardened, which should increase the durability of the setting. One hardening procedure is to use soft sheet and then heat it in an oven for 4 hrs. at 400º F of 1 hr. at 580° F. Argentium is harder than standard sterling when it is work hardened as well.


The silver of the 21st century – stays bright and beautiful and is ready to go when you are.
Argentium silver, the way silver was meant to be; forever bright and beautiful
What is Argentium silver and where did it come from?
Peter Johns, a professor of silversmithing at Middlesex University in England invented it in 1996 and  labeled it AS.
Argentium is .925 or 97% silver and qualifies to carry that trademark.

Germanium is the element that makes it tarnish resistant and firescale free.
Germanium is not found as a free element in nature. But is mined from zinc ores, coal and germanite.  It is a metalloid, as are silicon, manganese, boron and sulfur.  It borders between metallic elements and non-metallic elements and is found on the periodic table as GE.  It replaces 1.2% of the copper and seems to have a bleaching characteristic when alloyed.
Germanium is used as:
As a transistor element – as a phosphor in fluorescent lamps, infrared spectroscopes – lenses and flutes.
Fire Scale is prevented when Germanium constantly diffuses to the surface where it combines with oxygen and forms a thin layer of germanium oxide – GeO2 that is impervious to oxygen.
Technical Data Sheet
Melt Temperature is 60° F lower than standard sterling silver.  If it looks light yellow or orange, it’s too hot!
Harder and More Durable – Argentium Silver can be made nearly twice has hard as annealed standard sterling silver by simple heat treatment – even in a domestic oven at 450° F for 2 hours.  Typical hardness of rapidly quenched pieces is 70 DPH.  Flasks cooled to room temperature can approach 110 DPH and heat treated castings can approach 125 DPH! (Approximately twice the hardness of standard Sterling silver!)   To obtain this hardness, place the castings in the over at 580 F for 45 minutes.

Laser Weldable – Unlike ordinary sterling silver, Argentium Sterling Silver can be laser welded, opening up new avenues in application and design.
Casting:  It is very important not to over heat.  Use a separate crucible to avoid contamination from other metals.  PLEASE DON’T MIX SILVERS.  We use a very “happy” pink sticker which says, “ARGENTIUM – DO NOT MIX”.  Do not use silicon carbide.
There is a learning curve to casting Argentium:  a lower temp. to adjust to.

Sterling Silver: Melt Temp  – 1475°F   Flow  – 1650°F

Argentium Silver .925:  Melt Temp – 1410°F   Flow 1610°F
Argentium Silver 97%:  Melt Temp – 1724°F   Flow 1724°F

When investment casting, a pour temperature of 1780-1880°F (971-1027°C) and a flask temperature below 1250 F (677 C) is recommended.  If casting without a protective atmosphere, the use of boric acid flux or graphite powder is effective.  After casting the metal, a minimum of 15 minutes air cooling is required before quenching, says Peter.  However, many of our customers recommend letting it cool until you can pick it up and then quenching it for best results.
Polishing: To avoid contamination from other alloyw in the workshop, a separate wheel should be used for Argentium sterling only.  If this is not possible, thoroughly rake wheels before using.
Soldering – Argentium Sterling displays a lighter color when heated.  If the metal looks yellow or light orange, it is too hot.  It is important to avoid overheating this metal.  Use Argentium silver solders for best compatibility.
Price – Yes it’s more expensive 15% – 18% higher than standard sterling silver.  But all those who are already using it, tell us it’s well worth the extra money.  The cost savings is in the finishing.
Fabrication:  Easier to work with.
Enameling: NOT KNOWN
Antiquing: Use hydrochloric or muratic acid.
Remelting scrap may result in brittle castings.  There is no need to keep your silver scrap separate for refining.
AS Logo – if you are interested in the AS stamp, visit the Argentium web site to read about licensing.
Cost:  Averages approximately 15% to 18% more than Standard Silver.
But will reduce your costs due to:
No cyanide needed for stripping
Cost of managing the toxic waste of the cyanide processes
Healthier working environment.
Less deep polishing
No need for plating or lacquering to prevent tarnish
Less labor costs associated with reduced finishing and
polishing times.
Thus increased profitability for silver products.
The ability to harden Argentium Sterling makes certain designs possible that may have been with regular silver.

Two types of Argentium, 925 and 970

With the help of the enamlforum group where some have tested enameling on the argentium and are willing to share their  finding.

“I have done enameling on Argentium 970 with good success. The  standard Argentium 930 has too low of a melting point and problems with slumping. There are some photos of my test enamels on cast  Argentium 970 in this forum. I’ve also fabricated enamel cups from 970 sheet and it works well, however, it’s only available in casting  shot so I roll my own sheet. Rio carried sheet for a short while, but doesn’t any more. I sand off the germanium oxide just before enameling and fire it like fine silver. By the way, Argentium has it’s own quirks. I’d suggest Googleing it and reading up on how to use it, it’s different than standard sterling.” Jim at the   enamelforum@yahoogroups.com

Enameling on Palladium

Enamelling Palladium: Exploration

Rachel Gogerly recently had the opportunity to extend her knowledge and skills enamelling Palladium, a ‘new’ metal to the jewellery industry, which as yet has little technical information recorded on how well or not it enamels.
This opportunity came about with the introduction of Palladium hallmarking in the UK this year and to commemorate this, the Wardens of Birmingham Assay Office commissioned a new Badge of Office for their Assay Master Michael Allchin. Designed and made by Silversmith and Palladium expert, Martyn Pugh, it was the first Palladium piece to be marked in Birmingham.
The design included various symbols, including the depiction of the atomic structure of Palladium and at its centre, the Anchor, which has been the town mark of the Birmingham Assay Office since it was founded in 1773. Flames on one section of the badge (representing cupellation, the traditional method of fire assaying) required enamelling and it was this section that Rachel was invited to create vibrant transparent colours of red, orange and yellow.

Starting with no experience of working with enamel on Palladium and not knowing if it could be enamelled or to what quality, a number of samples and some experimentation were required to establish how best to proceed. There were four main questions Rachel wanted answered, ‘Can Palladium be enamelled? And if so, what preparation is required? Can consistent good quality results be achieved? Finally, how does Palladium influence the appearance of transparent enamel?’
In conclusion, Palladium enamels very well and like copper, can be hard fired. Unlike Silver and Gold, it does not melt if left in the kiln for a few seconds longer!! However, it does influence transparent colours greatly, making them more muted –flux looks grey on Palladium (see image 1), so it is likely that foils will need to be used with certain colours especially reds and yellows.

Subsequent samples allowed exploration of preparation methods, the best one being cleaning the surface thoroughly with a glass brush to remove any oxide dirt and grease. Standard pickles and nitric acid do not clean the Palladium metal surface in any way. Brightening the surface with engraving before enamelling the Palladium also helped to give more ‘life’ to any transparent colours used.

Because the colour of Palladium was influencing the colours significantly, it was necessary to use Gold foil under the enamel to get the vibrancy of the reds and yellows required to represent flames for this particular piece. The advantage of being able to fire the Palladium at a high temperature, between 950’ – 1000’c, meant it was easier to get the foil very smooth before applying the subsequent layers of colour.

Both the initial coat of clear enamel (flux) and the foil were hard fired and good clarity of colour was achieved by further hard firings when applying the all the remaining transparent enamels.

info from, www.guildofenamellers.org

And check out Rachel’s amazing work at her site www.craftmaker.co.uk/rachelgogerly

Enameling on Copper

Copper is one of the most popular metals to enamel on. Whether using transparent, opaque or opal enamels you usually need a flux, as you do when enameling on most metals. There are some colors of enamel you will find, you can get by with out flux but you will have to run a test to find out.

When applying your flux coat on copper use very fine ground enamels, 150 mesh, this will ensure quick fusing of the enamel  coverage and eliminate oxidation. =little brown spots on the metal.

Copper is the one metal that can be fired higher also. I fire my enamel on gold or fine silver at 1425 degrees where as copper is better suited at 1500 and even 1525 degrees, and I have see enameling artist fire at 1550 degrees.

One complaint of copper is the oxidation. But some artist use this to their advantage of design. Leaving the oxidation and enameling over it. You get a rough look and can get some very beautiful colors in the copper, which can add to the enamels.

It is best when making jewelry with copper and enamel, to apply enamel to both sides of the metal and fire at once. You can do this by adding Klyre-Fire to the enamel on the back. This is called the counter enamel. A few drops of Klyre-Fire added to your wet enamel, makes the enamel stick to the back so you can flip it over and apply enamel to the front and have one firing.


Above is a cleaned piece of copper, of  18 ga. by using penny brite. In the center photo the wet counter enamel is applied that has Klyre-Fire added to it so once I have used the brush to remove the excess moisture I can flip it over. In the third photo enamels are being sifted on. Once you have full coverage fire at your desired temperature from 1500 – 1550 degrees for approx. 1 minute and 15 seconds. Or untill the enamels appear smooth.