Enamel is essentially glass which is ground to a powder before
being fired on to a metal base. Suitable metals for enamelling
include gold, silver, copper, aluminium, and steel. The ground
glass is a combination of silica and soda ash with addition of
small amount of metal oxides to give it colour. Enamelling is
the process of fusing layers of ground glass onto metal using
a kiln or torch. Firings can take from 30 seconds to several
minutes, with the kiln heated between 650°C and 1000°C,
depending on the techniques and materials used.
Industrial, or liquid, enamels are enamel
frits ground very finely and mixed with other components to
make a liquid suspension. This is applied to a metal surface
with a spray gun, a brush, or by dipping.
The enamel is contained within wire cells
(cloisons). These wires are usually fired onto a bas coat of
flux (a clear transparent enamel), then filled with wet
enamel. The wet enamel is often applied with quill in layers,
a technique known as wet packing. The piece is fired after
each layer has been applied.
Recesses in the form of patterns or
designs are carved or etched into the metal and the enamel is
wet packed into these areas.
An extension of champlevé, the recesses
are engraved with patterns or carved with a low relief which
can be seen as varying densities of colour through the
In this technique, the enamel is fired
into an open framework, with the result resembling stained
glass. It is particularly beautiful with light shining through
the transparent or translucent enamels.
Painted enamel or Grisaille
Traditionally very finely ground metallic
oxides are painted onto a white enamel base with fine brushes
and fired, layer upon layer. The process, which is analogous
to painting, can produce a detailed three dimensional quality.
Grisaille is painted in a similar fashion but reversed: the
background is black or dark blue and the images are applied in
various densities of white to give an chiaroscuro
For extensive information about
enamelling techniques, please visit our information page.