The pandemic has become the main trendsetter. We owe it to many of the styles and fashion trends that have emerged in recent times. The rebellious spirit, boldness and brilliance of multi-colored 80s-style enamel jewelry have become one of the leading trends. In 2021, they blew up the jewelry market with their bright colors and unusual shapes to distract us from the gray monotony of quarantine everyday life.
Everything you need to know about how colored enamel is used in jewelry — from production technology, storage and care rules, to outfits with which they can be worn — read in this article.
Enamel in jewelry
The oldest jewelry technique in the history of mankind is the enameling of jewelry. It consists in decorating objects with a glass coating of different colors.
The oldest accessories, decorated with jewelry enamel, were found in ancient Egypt in the burial places of pharaohs, their wives and courtiers. Molten glass imitated precious stones — turquoise, lapis lazuli and carnelian.
The heyday of this art fell on the Middle Ages on the island of Cyprus and in Byzantium in the 11th-14th centuries. The glass powder particles of the master were even placed in golden cages.
During the Renaissance, this technique was used to make rings, medallions and figurines of rulers, made on a microscale.
In Georgia, the application of enamel on jewelry is called «Menankari». The surface to be enameled is separated by metal plates (usually silver or gold). Enamel is placed in each pocket thus created, and then everything is fired. Enameling of pockets is repeated until the desired effect is achieved. In Poland, this technique is known as cellular (or compartment).
The world uses the general term Cloisonne. The complex enameling technique takes a lot of time, so enamel is a rarity in jewelry today. Sometimes there are rare enamel jewels that have survived to this day in perfect condition. Painstaking work with classical enamel today is performed by a few talented craftsmen. They often replace it with colored epoxies, which, with the right combination of ingredients, cure without the use of heat.
What is enamel in jewelry?
This is a technique for decorating metals using colored glossy coatings of individual parts of the object. First, fats and oxides are removed from the surface of the product. Apply the enamel with a brush or spatula. It is then fired in an oven or cured with UV light.
Jewelry enamel is glass, more precisely glaze, colored with metal oxides, with a melting point of about 750–850 °C. It is suitable for decorating almost all metals and their alloys that do not melt at the specified temperature.
Initially, the main function of jewelry enamel was to protect the metal from environmental influences — moisture, sun, deformation. A complex chemical composition is necessary for its strong adhesion to the base material.
Enamel for jewelry consists mainly of powdered quartz containing salts of silicic acid, oxides of silicon, potassium, barium, sodium, oxides of various metals that give color, and water. Some types of enamel contain shiny particles that create a mother-of-pearl shine or imitate rhinestones.
Jewelry enamel is applied to a base metal that has a higher melting point but similar thermal expansion. Due to their respective coefficient of thermal expansion and high melting point, copper and gold are the metals best suited for enamelling. Next, a counterremia (hatching) is applied — a top coating that does not crack and does not stick to the metal due to different thermal work and glass expansion. After firing, the product is slowly cooled. Then its surface is ground and polished.
Jewelry enamel and its main types, techniques
There is cold enamel and hot. Hot enameling technology is more labor-intensive than cold enamelling. The decoration is fired in a kiln at temperatures ranging from 700 to 900 °C. The process is not fast, so some manufacturers prefer cold application technology, which allows one day to evenly distribute the enamel on the surface of the jewelry.
In recent years, UV-cured enamels based on polymers have begun to be made, similar to filling dentistry. Depending on the properties, polymerization rate, their hardening can be from several hours to several minutes or even seconds. Such enamels are easy to use and technologically advanced. The enamel coating obtained by this method is plastic, rarely cracks and is easily repaired. And the shortcomings that appear in such coatings are easy to eliminate.
- Cellular enamel (cloisonne) of the main color is applied to cells consisting of filigree or thin plaques. And other shades are usually poured into separate fields. Varieties of this technology are jewelry slit enamels. Recesses are cut by engraving, perforation or acid etching.
- Relief enamel (notched) requires the preparation of an in-depth relief, which is first filled with a single-color transparent mixture. In places where the layer is thin, light shades are obtained. Due to the thicker layer, the colors become darker and more saturated.
- Openwork enamel (pliqué-a-jour) is a type of stained-glass window. It is often performed on a concave gem without a bottom layer of metal (substrate), covered with gold on top. Colorful drawings are made from above, resembling miniature stained-glass windows. Transparent enamel in jewelry allows you to create deep and original lighting effects, opaque — bold and bright shades.
- Transylvanian enamel — using a wire of the appropriate shape, the surface of the object is divided into cells. This allows you to create deep channels for applying the first layer. The shading effect is formed by applying many layers of different densities. The resulting fields are partially filled with enamel so as not to completely cover the wires.
- Guilloche enamel (bass style) is a repeating pattern that is manually engraved on the surface of the metal. Its recesses are covered with enamel. The reflected light creates a mesmerizing artistic effect. The product is fired in a kiln. This technique requires great precision and delicacy, and takes a lot of time.
- The butterfly wing effect (tie-dye) is a special method of dyeing clothes that was common in the 1960s. One of the most used techniques in making charms for Pandora jewelry. Today, both classic, ethnic, oriental, rainbow, and mosaic patterns reminiscent of Art Deco are popular.
How to clean enamel products
An indisputable fact is that the enamel on the jewelry is resistant to impacts, scratches, moisture, thanks to which they last much longer. But it is advisable not to expose them to strong mechanical and chemical influences and not to store them in direct sunlight, as a result of which the color of the coating may fade.
The best place for enamelware is a beautiful jewelry box.
When stored in a box, it is worth wrapping them with a soft cloth or tissue paper so that the earrings from another pair of earrings or the stone from the ring do not scratch the enamel.
If it so happened that perfumes or creams got on enameled earrings or necklaces, it is necessary to wipe them with a soft cloth after each wearing.
Cleaning enamel jewelry is not particularly difficult, and a few minutes dedicated to caring for them contribute to their beautiful appearance.
For cleaning you will need:
- small bowl,
- soft fabric (cotton or fleece),
- soft bristled toothbrush
- boiled or distilled water,
- paper towels,
- dishwashing liquid, soap or jewelry detergent.
First, place the jewelry in a bowl of water and detergent for about 10 minutes. It is better to use boiled or filtered water as it does not leave stains like hard water does. After 10 minutes, remove each jewelry, wipe it with a cloth, remove dirt with a soft toothbrush. Dry the decoration gently with a paper towel and buff the surface with a cloth.
How and with what to wear jewelry with enamel
Multi-colored enamel jewelry is an excellent chromotherapy for those who lack rainbow emotions in their lives. The combination of concise forms, simple geometry and large sizes is considered the most fashionable. Make the main accent in the image on the brightest and most flirty, unusual color schemes by wearing bright enamel earrings and rings in the same style under a white basic T-shirt, light blouse, sundress or oversized shirt, complete with loose jeans.
Even if you are not a fan of too bright jewelry, take a closer look at products with white, black or neutral gray enamel. They look incredibly authentic and go with almost any style and fashion look — from street to business or evening.