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Bought Old Enameling Powders & More - Now What?

I bought a large lot at a rock auction of powdery substance for
enameling. There are also small pieces of molted glass and small,
fine pieces of rocks that look like they had been crushed to make a
courser grind of the enameling powder. Some of the powders are in
round cardboard containers original from manufacturer. Others are in
old glass salt and pepper shakers. All of it is in still shakable and
free of lumps and hardness. I don’t know what to do with any of this
but would like to. Any suggestions on techniques or equipment needed
would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

Well good luck with the enameling, the best thing for you to do
would be to get a book… first of all I’d thoroughly wash all
enamel. Put it into clear and clean containers make sure to label
them… from there on… experiment with them… find out what temps
they work at etc… I’m sure you’ll come up with some great looking
stuff. Enamel works on everything from Bronze to Brass, Silver and
Copper… I love the colors personally.


Before “washing” the enamels, buy a book, or books, or try to find a
class in your area. The two books easiest to locate these days are
"Enamels, Enameling, Enamelists" by Matthews, and “A Manual of
Cloisonne and Champleve Enameling” by Strosahl and Barnhart. The
Manual is available from Enamelwork Supply in Seattle 206-525-9271.
Alana Clearlake

How about a little additional info, such as the manufacturer? Are
there any indications as to whether they are intended for copper, or
silver? Or something else? If it’s in salt and pepper shakers it’s
probably small lumps rather than a fine grind? Have you ever done any
enameling? Do you have a kiln and any other enameling equipment? or
experience? What would you like to do with it? margaret

I might be able to help you, but need more regarding the
type of enamels. Is there any indication of the manufacturer? If
they are Thompsons, you can contact them for their booklets on
enameling, and their catalog which lists all the supplies you need
for enameling. Be careful not to contaminate the ground enamels
–keep them in covered containers. Any identifying marks such as
numbers etc. will help us in identifying the maker. they could be
thompsons, or Schauer, or the French enamels. also, they could be
enamels made to go on either copper, or aluminum, or brass----but
any numbers you send on could help us identify them. If they are
old they are probably lead bearing, so don’t use on anything that
will contain food. Lead bearing are compatible with the new lead
free, so hang on to them—you may have colors no longer being made.
Hope to be able to help you further. so send on whatever information
you can find on the labels—. I am puzzled by the fact that some
are in cardboard containers. I don’t recall any enamels coming in
cardboard----usually glass containers, or more recently, plastic.

Reading books helps a great deal in figuring out what you’ve got and
what to do with it, whether you’ve bought enamel, old tools or have
picked up something off the side of the road, etc. I would definitely
put on a dust mask and put the powders in clean jars with labels
stating when/where you bought them and what you think they might be. I
would not wash them at this stage because moisture causes enamels to
break down and do funny things on your work. When you are ready to
test them on metal or mica sheets using a kiln (or a torch) then youy
can take a bit of powder from the jar into a cup, wash it by filling
the cup with water, stirring the powder and pouring off most of the
water with the finest grains carried in it.(keep a bucket handy for
the rinsing, the fine grains can eventually cause problems in your
pipes) That leaves you with the coarsest grains in the cup and that’s
what you want to use to test the color. You can place the enamel on
your piece with a brush in its wet state or dry the enamel on a paper
towel or shallow Pyrex bowl and sift it. Always wait for your enamel
to be dry on the piece before you fire it. Most procedures are
covered in books like Margaret Seeler’s The Art of Enameling (my fave)
or books by Oppi Untracht, Edward Winter, Herbert Mayron, etc…A
look through the Orchid digest under Enamel Bits will help you out
with book titles and enameling equipment suppliers. I also recommend
taking a class in enameling. There are some great guilds to join if
you can’t find a school in your area and their members can also help
you out. Good luck and have fun! Juliet Gamarci

Sounds like you may have enamels from Thompson Enamels? They used to
(maybe still do) sell enamels in round carboard containers. To use
the enamels you need to have a small enameling kiln or oven, a PMC
kiln works also. It would be to your benefit to get a book on
enameling and read about the techiniques, as it is not difficult, but
it is a process.

With old enamels such as the ones you have acquired, it is important
to wash the enamels or screen them and test them on fine silver or
copper to see if they are still good. Enamels can go bad and break
down over time, but that is if they have been exposed to moisture. If
kept dry, they are usually good for many years, but beware, some
colors go bad before others.

If you would like a catalog with supplies and materials for
enameling, I recommend calling Thompson Enamel at 859.291.3800 or
e-mailing them at: They are located in
Bellevue, KY and charge $4 for a catalog.

Another resource would be Enamelwork Supply located in Seattle, WA
206.525.9271. They sell many enamels and some supplies.

There are many types of enameling, ie. cloisonne and plique-a-jour,
so as I stated before, I would recommend getting a book on the topic.
If you have further questions, I would be happy to help. I just
learned cloisonne enameling myself and love it! Regards,

Sara D. Commers
C&L Gems LLC

Alma I agree w/ you all of the old Thompson enamels were lead
bearing - but if used for jewelry it is o.k. Thompson did ship
their enamels yrs ago in an envelop in a brown heavy paper that
looked like cardboard - not corrugated like boxes. - but their
name is on the env. - when I first started enameling that is all
I had to work with - so I decided to do test firing on beads and
a torch, that way I found out what the colors were & how they
combined I used copper tubing as a base material, fine silver
reacts differently w/enamel colors. - I only wish I had more of
those old colors - especially the lumps - they are so intense in
color- oh yes watch out beads can become addictive - ha - ha

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