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Which enamel powders are best quality on silver

Hi All,

I have tried Thompson Enamels but wonder if French or Japanese ones
would be better colors. I am looking for bright or unusual colors that
don’t look like paint.


Your only other choices would be the leaded enamels from Ninamoya or
Soyer. The former are Japanese and can be purchased from two
different mail order venues, one in Seattle and one in Texas. The
Soyer enamels are French and also are available from mail order. As
for not having them look like paint, use transparent enamels in
multiple layers over your silver and it will have a wonderful and
deep look.

Sandi (Beadstorm)

Sharron: Have you considered grinding your own? Find a color you want
at a stain glass store, see it they have a scrap. In a mortar and
pestle grind it as fine as you can and grind it some more. Add water
and save what floats. Dry and keep grinding, float etc. Dry all your
powder. Now give it a test by firing to some scrap and see if it
retains the color you want. I know it is a pain in the patut but it
is a way for getting colors you can’t find else where. This is just a
crude start but I am sure others can give you more detailed process
to get even better powders but this works as a rough start. Good
luck. If you try it please let us know how it worked foryou.

John (Jack) Sexton

Glass expands and contracts as its temperature changes. The amount
of change can be measured and is referred to as a COE or Coefficient
of Expansion.

If two different glasses are mixed on the same piece and have
different enough COE values, the glass may self-destruct over time as
they pull themselves apart when the temperature changes.

The enamels within a vendor’s product line tend to have similar COE
values because, well, that helps them play well together, which
results in happy customers.

Random glass samples may or may not have compatible COE values.

That’s not to discourage you from salvaging nifty colors from found
glass! Just be sure to do some temperature testing, too.

You can get a sample pack of Thompson Enamels with nearly 200 colors
in it to play with for a reasonable price. sells
Ninomiya enamels in sample sizes. I’ve been happy with both,
particularly the ones I’ve been able to get in lump form and grind to
suit my needs. I’ve heard good things about the Soyer enamels but
haven’t tried them.

Best of luck in your enameling. Hopefully the Ganoksin enamellists
can meet up at the Enamelist Society conference in July.

Have you considered grinding your own? Find a color you want at a
stain glass store, see it they have a scrap.

This is not quite the answer. After working in stained glass for
years I slid over to enameling. As with the poster I thought this
would be a great way to use up my scrap glass and extend my regular
supply. Let’s just say I was disappointed.

Window glass and enamels have different melting temperatures. After
spending much time grinding then firing a piece that contained both
materials I was saddened to find that the enamels were shiny and the
"stained glass" still felt sharp. I believe a better solution is to
decide which enamel manufacturer you prefer and use that particular
brand whenever possible. Most suppliers offer sample sets of colors
for purchase in small quantities.

The reason for staying with a particular brand is that their enamels
are usually compatible with each other. You certainly can use
different manufacturers but the COE [coefficient of expansion] may
be dissimilar enough that you will be left with cracks within the
enamels. Or, one enamel will require a higher heat that will put
another enamel under stress [or burn it]. The reverse of the same
situation…one color matures and another sits there in the orange
peel stage.

The above situations can occur when multiple enamels are being used
on the same piece. Obviously, if only one color is being used then
incapability is not an issue. [but don’t we love to mix the colors

You mentioned Thompson. Since you are new to enameling realize that
care must be taken when using old and new Thompson colors together.
The “old” colors, usually with numbers below 1000 are colors with
lead added and melt at a lower temperature. The “new” colors,
usually with numbers over 1000 contain no lead and have a higher
melting temperature. If there is any question then ask the person
you are purchasing from.

I love Ninomiya, not only for the range of colors but also because
they are so compatible with each other. As I use up my old Thompson
stash I replace with Ninomiya because I prefer to stay with the
leaded enamels. I have also been purchasing Soyer when a color is
required that is not in the Ninomiya palette. With the work I do now
I seldom mix the colors, they don’t even touch each other on the
piece so the COE between manufacturers is not as important as with
standard enameled pieces.

I have not tried any of the Milton Bridge enamels.

Schauer used to be a reliable brand but I have had enough
disappointments that I will not purchase them. I was working on a
piece using transparent red. After firing I discovered white specks
that remained hard and sharp after the rest of the enamel matured
and went glossy. In the granular form transparent red appears to be
a light pink so the white specks were not obvious [I would have picked them out]. After trying other reds I found this to be
consistent with the brand. I have spoken with other enamelists with
similar stories regarding other Schauer colors. It seems that their
quality control is not what it used to be.

No matter which manufacturer you choose, you will have to do test
firings for yourself to get a feel for them and understand how they
will react with your applications.

Orchid Rules…
Karla Maxwell from sunny Southern California

Thank you. This was exactly the info. I was hoping to get.