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Making enamel samples


Hi Everyone- I am just getting set up to do enameling, and what with
a background as an oil painter, I am very excited about the field.
First, I ordered a set of samples from Thompson, Med fire med exp. I
didn’t realize how many colors that is! I can’t start off doing
samples of all of them and thought I wouldjust pick out a range of my
favorites, making sure I have a variety of shades and values. I am
looking for advise on what kind of metal to do my samples on. I think
I would like to work on fine silve. I don’t really want to be making
jewelry out of copper. This could get real expensive for making
samples. Would it be cheaper to make sample out of copper with it
divided into copper, and silver foil. I iamgine using the silver
foil this way would be less expensive than using pure silver, but
will it show what pure silver would look like in the same color? I
would appreciate any advise, and bless the stars for Ganoksin. A
completely seperate question- I would like to set an old piece of
ribbon under glass and set it in silver to make a pin. Is there a
source for glass for jewelry? or do I just run down to the hardware store?
Thanks All- Cherie


Cheryl, As a student we set our samples on copper w/ parallel rows of
silver foil, gold foil, & opaque white. It seems to be reasonably
gauge but others may have different opinions. Since I am just
beginning in this arena I would be very interested in hearing others
point of view. Excellent question thank you for asking.



Cheryl: Can’t speak for your glass to set the ribbon under (would
like to know too) but as to enamel and samples and silver, I have
some suggestions.

If you believe you will be using silver as your metal, you really do
need to do some small samples on that metal. Choose a project, the
colors, the metal and do just the color testing you need for that
project. As time goes on you will build a body of test samples
without comitting a huge amount of time in the beginning.

One: My opinion, you will want to use transparents frequently to
allow the beauty of the silver to show through. I use the metal as
the “canvas” and the enamel as the “watercolor”. Wash the enamel
clear of “fines” and contaminants. You might want to sift through a
progression of screens (60 mesh, 120 mesh, 200 mesh). The amount at
the finer end (200 mesh) is a good place to begin washing. For
transparents, one method is usually not enough. And glass does not
mix like paint to give you different shades of a color. Mixing opaque
white with opaque black gives you salt and pepper, not gray. The
enamel particles usually remain discrete. You can do some shading,
layering, & lightening (by adding cleaned flux/clear enamel) to a

Two: Thompsons carries only lead-free enamels. These react
differently on different metals. Almost all pinks turn orange once
fired over bare silver. To keep them pink, you would need to apply
and fire a base coat of clear enamel flux (#2020 Thompsons) & cool,
clean and apply the chosen color over that, fire again. It keeps the
color from reacting with the bare silver. This is Sterling silver
mostly. And you must take Sterling and manage to bring up a fine
silver layer to the top of the metal. You can do this by dipping the
Sterling into Nitric Acid repeatedly, washing betweeen dips, until no
gray shows up. You can also do it by heating the silver to black,
clean it, heat again, until only the pale silver color remains. Fine
Silver won’t need the above processes but remember, the metal is very
soft and the final result will need protection, usually a bezel
setting, or the metal will flex and the enamel will crack.

Three: Best to stick with a single enamel company to begin.
Thompsons is good because all their enamels for metal fuse at a
similar temperature and have similar expansion values. Learn the
enamels there first. Later you might branch out to other leaded
enamels, but lots of testing for compatability, etc. to be done at
that time.

The process of samples gives you practice as well as physical
evidence as to resulting colors. It is worth the time to test before
comitting to a nice design and ending up with unwanted results. The
samples don’t have to be huge. Sterling is inexpensive at the
moment. You will also learn which colors may need higher firing
temperatures to fuse than others. In the progression of firing, you
would want to put those colors on first, fuse them at a high
temperature and then finish with the easier to fuse colors. How will
you know which are which? Sampling and keeping notes on the sample:
temperature, time and result over bare metal or metal with a flux
over it or even layering different colors over one another. Reds
should almost always be fired onto a piece at the last, as exposure
to heat turns them darker and darker to black or “burned out”. Just
the nature of the color.

I could go on for a long time about enamels. Best to find a book
that covers the basic techniques and talks about things in depth. My
favorite book is Liban & Mitchell’s “Cloisonne Enameling and Jewelry
Making”. But there have been a number of contemporary publications.
Jinks McGrath has a very basic intro. book. Karen Cohen has recently
published “The Art of Fine Enameling”. Check the library to preview
texts. Have FUN! Be SAFE.

Eileen Schneegas
Snow Goose Designs
Washington (state that is)


Cherie, I can answer your sample question. Hope this is not toooo

My samples are on fine silver. I used a 3 x 1 in rectangle of 20
gauge fine silver. (You can make it smaller or larger, depending on
the number of colors you want on the sample.) I have 2 samples one
for opals and opaque and one for transparent. I started by scoring
my silver with lines vertically and horizontally taking into account
that I would be laying down vertical strips of gold every other
scored square. I scored 18 lines vertically and four lines
horizontally. This allowed me to have 9 colors across. I also had
five down. This gave me 90 samples on silver and gold. I used 45
colors. Using the wet packing method I fired my flux on both
sides. Since the scored lines are still visible under the flux I
followed those guidelines to add strips of gold foil. Vertically. On
my sample I have 9 strips of gold foil. Alternating gold foil,
silver, gold foil…After firing the gold foil onto the fluxed silver
I then added another layer of flux onto the gold strips and then
fired. I wet packed my color samples on each square so that it
covered both the gold and silver. The results give me enamel on gold
and silver in a small area. It is all I need since I do not work on
copper. If you would like, I can send you a picture of my sample
plate. Just send me an email. Linda Crawford Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA, USA New Enameling
Book to purchase follow link:


Cherie, if you are planning to work mainly on fine silver, and are
only planning to use a few colors, you can make your samples on a
piece of mica and the results will be the same as if fired on the
silver. Put about 1/4 teaspoon or more of the dry enamel on a
piece of mica. Fire it, let it cool, peel it off, and with scotch
tape attach it to a sheet of paper. Label it with number and color
for future reference. I keep a loose leaf binder for just this
purpose. Under each color I will note any important information
relating to that particular color such as problems encounted,
problems solved etc… A sheet of mica goes a long way as one merely
peels off the bit of fired enamel and reuses the balance of the
mica. This being said, I would still strongly urge that you make a
permanent set of samples firing each enamel on copper, as well as
on foil covered copper. You will find detailed instructions in
almost all the books on basic enameling. It will be well worth your
time to do this. Happy enameling. Alma


Joel – we did the same, although we included lines of copper
alone, copper with flux on it, and opalescent white as bases to the
transparent color we were sampling as well.




Thanks for the reminder, indeed we did the same thing. We also used
an opaque white and copper alone along w/ the silver and gold foil.

Do silver & gold foil serve as acurrate sample subsitutes for a
full piece of the metals?


Do silver & gold foil serve as acurrate  sample subsitutes for a
full piece of the metals? 

The colors will be accurate, but foils as opposed to metal sheet
make the enamels appear more sparkly. Or have more glitter?? Also
keep in mind that samples usually have only one layer of enamel on
them, and the transparent colors become darker as more layers are
added. I usually do two color coats on samples so I have a better
idea of the depth of the color.

Alana Clearlake