Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Analysis Was: Enamels

   Does anyone know what testing methods provide *reliable*
concerning levels of heavy metals in a person's

G’day, Colleen; There are a number of reliable tests for
potentially toxic metals in enamels or anything else. The problem
is however that the ordinary user does not have the apparatus,
equipment, chemicals or skills to carry them out. Let me expand a
bit on that:

The simplest (and oldest) methods of analysis consist firstly of
getting the material into water-solution. Prolonged heating with
borax can achieve this. Then comes a very precise series of tests
which must be done in strict sequence - quite a laborious business,
and although there is little need for really expensive apparatus, a
large variety of chemicals are required and a good deal of skill
and experience.

Another method is X-ray analysis whereby a beam of X-rays is fired
at a sample (which can be very small). This beam exites the atoms
in the sample to fluoresce (give off X-rays at a lower and
predictable frequency) The wavelengths of this fluorescence can be
measured and the presence of specific elements deduced from it.

Then there is ordinary spectroscopy, where the sample is
vapourised by great heat and the atoms are excited to produce
specific wavelengths of light (including ultra-violet) The
resultant light is a sort of ‘fingerprint’ of each variety of atom
present and thus the composition of the sample is revealed.

Now how about Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy? A solution of the
sample is sprayed into the flame of an uncontaminated gas, often
pure hydrogen. A very special sort of lamp shines a light through
the flame, and that light is produced by the exitation of the atoms
of metals in the various lamps used. The similarly excited atoms
in the flame absorb some of that light thus producing gaps or dark
lines in the spectrum, which are of course, specific to the metals.

On occasion Neutron Activation Analysis can be used. The sample
is used dry for this mostly, and a beam of neutrons (often from a
pretty lethal mix of radium and another substance) is fired at the
sample. Some of the neutrons are captured by certain atoms (eg:
silver) which becomes very temporarily radioactive. The wavelength
of this radioactivity is specific to certain elements and thus the
composition of the sample is revealed.

Want another method? Try Mass Spectrometry. The sample is
vaporised and given a high electric charge. The tiny charged
particles are attracted to and through a grid given an opposite
charge, so they move at very high speeds. This beam of charged
particles passes through a powerful magnetic field, and since a
moving electric charge also has a magnetic field, the atoms are
deflected. The lightest atoms are deflected the most and the
heaviest atoms are deflected the least. So in effect the atoms
are weighed, answering the question "how do you weigh an atom?"
And of course, any of the elements can be identified by it’s atomic
weight. Elementary, my dear Watson.

There’s more, but enough is enough, eh?

So to sum it all up: yes, modern methods of analysis can detect
and measure precisely (even to 1 part per billion and better) the
constituents of any complicated mix of metals and other chemical
elements, and there exists methods of even determining the exact
size and shape of a molecule - and whether it is left or right
handed! By, by heck - you pay heavily for the

Yes, I know I get a bit pedantic at times - but you did ask, eh?

Cheers, Johnb @John_Burgess2 in the autumn of Sunny Mapua NZ.

   Does anyone know what testing methods provide *reliable*
concerning levels of heavy metals in a person's

an enamels instructor of mine told us she gets her "lead levels"
tested every year. I believe they take samples of your hair ( now
that doesn’t sopund painful, does it?). This is analyzed for lead,
and probably cadmium as well. I will ask her next I see her- Anne

Oh dear, thanks John, I am always so appreciative of your in-depth
replies but I guess I wasn’t clear in my initial post. I was
inquiring about testng for us - humans. Musta been me Newfie
accent. ;o)

Thanks for your concern, Eric. Every one of us working with
metals has placed ourselves at risk, some to a lesser extent than
others due to better ventilation systems, preferred working
methods, luck of the draw (genes), etc. I have no reason at the
moment to suspect that I have a problem; the question was prompted
by a friend who is/was an enamelist. She stopped 4 years ago for
health reasons - and now wonders if the problems are related in any
way to the 20+ years enamelling. Her doctor did ‘blood tests’ and
found nothing, but hair analysis found high levels of lead and
copper. What to do now? Her doctor places no credance in the hair
analysis (which she had done on her own); she isn’t sure what to
think, but definitely wants to take therapeutic action if action is
called for.

It has been my experience that when the problem is out of the
mainstream, as this one would be, it can be a good idea to gather
before going to see a physician – do some of their
homework for them, so to speak – but also because a well-informed
patient is more likely to get what they need.

My friend has heard that a very specific procedure should be used
for the blood tests; perhaps her physician didn’t order that one?
– but she doesn’t know what “that one” is so she can’t inquire!
And then there is Chelation; is it reliable as a diagnostic

So the question remains; does anyone know what is reliable?

I appreciate that this is a somewhat scary topic and I apologize
if I am upsetting anyone with this query. I’ll drop it after this


Try Dr. Barrett, firmly on the side of Western
medicine, but fair and knowledgable, will reply via e-mail


I am taking a stab in the dark. By any chance do you know of
anyone with the product Flaked Mica?

Would be very appreciative if you know where I might purchase this
product or of anyone you might know.


Try Metalliferous in New York City. 212/ 944 --0909.

They have a pretty good stock of enameling supplies. I bought
two very nice pieces of mica there. – Karen Christians Fly Fish
Design 282 Lexington St. Woburn, MA 01801


Current Artwork:

Hi, What do you do with flacked Mica, I am curious as I just got
a Satsuma Lamp and the shad looks like leather exterior but
underneath is Mica! Strange but true! Sincerely Chris

Try calling:

Thompson Enamel Enamelwork Supply Co.
P.O. Box 310 or 1022 N.E. 68th St.
Newport, KY 41072 Seattle, WA 98115
(606) 291-3800 (206) 525-9271

If they don’t have a supply they may be able to direct you to
someone who does. The last Mica I purchased was at a Gem Faire
and I purchased a bunch of it, what a find! Of course, I have
no idea where I filed her card. If you don’t have any luck
finding any I would be happy to share some of my supply with
you. Happy enamelling!! Linda Crawford…Sunny today in


I used flaked Mica when I enamel. I use a kiln in enamelling
and I find it very useful to keep the enamel from sticking to
the trivet when when = enamelling my jewelry.

I am sorry I don’t know where to purchase flaked mica. But
would you let me know when you find out? Thanks.

How fine does this mica need to be ? One source of finely
divided mica is produced as a by product from the reworking
certain types of armatures in electric motors . So i would
suggest that you try asking electrical motor repair shops , or
armature shops . Another source of finely divided mica called
"motor mica " , which is used as a dry lubricant , is McMaster
Carr , a HUGE tool wholesaler . Hope that this helps . R L Powell
at @rlpowell

I bought a chunk of mica at a gem and mineral show for a paltry
sum. A sharp knife divides the thing into thin sheets. The mica
gets very brittle from the firing and will not go too many
firings. You might try a mineral supply house as seen in the
Lapidary Journal. You might be able to buy several pounds for less
than the cost of the shipping.

I also use a thin sheet of titanium in the enameling kiln. Works


I find that enamel does not stick well to titanium and use it on
the bottom of the kiln as I would mica. Titanium has terrible heat
characteristics and requires a lot of heat to get red hot. It is
easily bent while red hot. It returns to room temperature and
strength quickly once the heat source is removed. A bonus is the
beautiful coloring heated titanium assumes. I bought some sheet
(actually a friend went to get it) from an aircraft manufacturing
company in southern San Diego County. Rhor Aircraft, I think at
$5.00 a pound. He was after the wire so he could make chain -mail.
Ultra light, gray, strong, rust-proof and sword-proof.

I bought some reject golf club shafts at the local scrap yard for
like a $1.00 a pound. The shafts can be slit open and while red
hot flattened. When put to a grinder, the titanium produces the
most beautiful long, brilliant white spark. Toxic, I’m told? It
defies conventional drilling and sawing.

The golf club shafts make gentle sounding wind chimes. Much nicer
than aluminum or copper. Plus they can be heat colored for very
little more effort. A permanent finish. Hey, everyone has to play a
little. Bill

Bill Eisenberg, Outstanding post. To the rest of you all, Bill is a
marvelous craftsman. Hopefully one day there will be a Web site
with his designs. In addition, he is a great friend. Teresa

 the titanium produces the most beautiful long, brilliant white
spark.  Toxic, I'm told? 

Yes, toxic. I used to work with it and sand it on a belt sander
until someone in the aircraft industry told it was quite toxic. I
wondered where that sore throat had come from…Please use
caution. - Deb