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Vitreous enamel on copper electroplate?

Hi all,

Wondering if anyone has any experience with enameling on copper
electroplate, rather than solid copper? I am thinking of using brass
forms and then electroplating with copper in order to enamel them.
I’m familiar with electroforming, but don’t really want to go this
route with this particular project.

I’m wondering if the plate thickness is enough to hold the enamel,
or if the brass underneath would effect it’s integrity?

Thanks much,
Angela Gerhard Jewelry

At enameling temperatures zinc is incredibly mobile in copper and
will diffuse right through the electroplate and you will have in
essence a brass plated brass object.


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


Hi Angela,

I did a lot of electroforming/plating in school and in the years
after. My suggestion is unless you have PERFECT adhesion (which you
don’t know till you heat) and a very thick plate (Electroform depth)
over the brass you will develop awful bubbles the moment you heat
the piece to enamel temperatures. This can create some very
interesting surface texture but…

Try it on a junk piece for yourself.

Rae Mearkle

Angela…Enameling on copper electroplate is one thing and
enameling on copper plated brass is another. It is quite easy to
enamel on an item that is completely electroformed of copper. The
problem is the alloys in the brass, mainly the zinc. The copper
plating does not really create enough of a barrier to be effective.

The zinc has a much lower melting temperature than required to fuse
the enamels. It will vaporize, causing bubbles in the enamel and can
discolor the enamel. You can see the bubbles in historical enamel
pieces [before they realized the problem]. You can also see the
bubbles in current low priced items when brass is used to keep the
price down.

Historically “guilders” metal has been used for enameling with some
transparent colors that react strongly [color change] on pure
copper. The guilders metals has a very small copper/zinc
ratio…95/5 verses the almost 20% zinc that is found in most brass
alloys. Guilders metal is very hard to find now days. Thompson
Enamel still does carry sheet stock though.

I once did an experiment on silicone bronze. After applying enamel I
was surprised with how clean the metal was after pulling it from the
kiln. I was surprised again when all the enamel fell cleanly away in
one piece.

Karla Maxwell…from not so sunny S. California


It seems your idea of electroplating copper should work just fine.
I’ve purchased silver plated steel from Thompson Enamels and they
work beautifully (and without using special enamels made especially
for steel) which is essentially the same approach.

BTW, I looked at your web site and your work is very, very nice. It
has a fresh and original design quality, as well as interesting,
unencumbered fabrication. I love it!!

Victoria W-D