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Large beads for enameling

Beth, I delayed sending this because I thought someone else might
have the specific you requested which was for fine silver

Years ago [17?] I took a cloisonne bead workshop from Kay Whitcomb
in which we fired onto seamless copper beads aprox 20mm dia. We were
able to purchase these from her. On the off chance that she still
carries these beads here is her address: Kay Whitcomb, 115 South
Street, Rockport, MA 01966. Kay has been “into” enameling for over 50
years and among other things is known for her graphic bead necklaces.

Someone suggested stringing the beads onto fine silver wire for
firing. I would advise against this for two reasons. The silver would
be very soft with all the annealing it would get in the kiln plus the
beads aquire some weight. Second, the fine silver wire would fire into
any enamel that it happens to touch. I believe we used nichrome [sp?]
wire that was placed through both holes in the bead then manipulated
to support between the uprights of a standard 3 point metal trivet
[the kind that holds the piece by the edges].

The key to these copper beads was to get a good base coat before the
decorative firings. Kay used liquid crackle enamel. It sounds like a
mistake but the crackle over bare copper didn’t crack. A good coat was
easy to achieve, clean the bead, dip it, let it dry, fire. In one easy
step all the firescale hassles disappeared. We did not worry about
counter enamel within the bead - didn’t seem necessary. When we
applied the wires we worked with gravity only doing a section at a

You commented that you could probably use sterling beads for your
project. I’m stating the obvious but if you do choose to go the
sterling route then pickle the dickens out of them to bring up a fine
silver skin to enamel on. Also remember to neutralize and clean out
any pickle that wants to stay on the interior of the bead. Fine silver
would be the metal of choice because it has a higher melting
temperature [a concern when dealing with the temperatures needed to
melt glass] and fine silver does not oxidize

If you work on copper then be sure you have a good base coat if you
are doing cloisonne. You do not want the fine silver wires to touch
the copper. Under the right conditions the two metals will alloy
themselves and your wonderful fine silver wires will trun into a
puddle of sterling causing you to curse and start over.

Good luck

Orchid Rules!..Karla in Sunny So Cal.