Updated: Feb 18, 2020
I've decided to make a series of small enamelled pendants which are light enough that they don't need to be hallmarked (in UK law, silver objects under 7.8g don't have to be hallmarked).
These pendants are made from the purest form of silver (fine silver), as opposed to sterling which has some copper added to it. Fine silver is easier to enamel on than sterling.
In the photo below I have scored a pattern on the front of the pendant which will show through the enamel. This is 'basse-taille' enamelling in its simplest form. In French 'basse-taille' translates as 'low-cut', which means that translucent enamels are placed over a pattern cut in low relief. The cuts help to reflect light.
Now for the addition of enamel to the back of the pendant. This is important because glass and metal have different expansion rates when heated and eventually the glass may come away from the metal if it is not 'counter-enamelled'.
In the photo below left I sifted transparent enamel that I had previously washed (I will get onto that in another post) over the back of the piece. In this case I use Soyer 240 'turquoise green' which is a thoroughly yummy colour.
The photo below right shows the piece after it has been in the kiln and then cooled.
Champleve and Cloisonne
Champleve and Cloisonne are two different but inter-related techniques which are both demonstrated in this pendant.
Champleve translates as 'raised field'. Originally artists would have carved low 'fields' out of silver to fill with enamel. Nowadays many people use the 'saw and solder' technique to create pieces with raised silver edges and recesses to fill with enamel. The pendant below has been pressed from fine silver and has a round 'field'.
Cloisonne refers to creating 'cells' (cloisons) with very fine silver wire which you can see below. I've made three shapes and inserted them onto a bed of clear flux (below left). Enamel flux is a completely different thing from soldering flux. Enamel flux is simply a clear enamel which is often put down as a base coat over metal to stop subsequent enamel coats reacting with the metal.
The enamel flux base coat (below left) has been sifted on and is ready for firing. The photo below right shows the same piece after it has been in the kiln and then cooled afterwards. The flux is now hard and glassy and is holding the wires in place.
The next phase is to add the coloured enamel which is the exciting part! In the photo below left I've sifted a layer of Soyer 240 for the sky. It is a personal choice whether you fire the colours separately or all at once, although sometimes it also depends on whether you need to fire any of the enamels at different temperatures (e.g. you would fire the high temperature colours first). In this piece I fired most of the colours separately (photo below right).
After several layers of each colour have been fired in the kiln and cooled, the piece is then ground down to the silver wire with a Dremel and carborundum stone to dome it. I then use sandpaper in various grades and finally polish the piece with Vonax polish and a mop (below).
Sometimes the restriction of working on such a small piece allows you to pare an image back to just a few lines to suggest a form. I always try to put lots of detail into my work, but on this occasion it was quite freeing to make something in its simplest form.
Until next time.