Enameling is one of the oldest forms of working with both glass and metal to create color and pattern on the surface of jewelry, wall work, and sculptures. It is an invaluable industrial process to coat steel for practical uses in appliances, cookware, and signage.
What is enameling?
Enameling is a process by which powdered glass is fused to a metal substrate at high heat. Enamels can be applied to glass, ceramics, and most commonly, metals. The application of enamels can add color to metals such as copper, silver, and gold. The powdered glass can be applied either wet or dry to a surface. The enamel melts, flows, and fuses to the surface in a smooth coating when heat is applied. Firing temperatures using a torch or a kiln generally range between 1400 and 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. The way that you fire your enamels will have a distinct effect on the texture and color of the enamel design, therefore enamelist must take many different variables into consideration before firing their piece. Enamel is composed of inorganic pigments and additives that each have various properties of opacity, translucent, and transparency. That composition will determine how the enamel is fired.
What is enameling used for?
Enameling is an ancient process and widely adopted technology that has been used for thousands of years, dating back to the 6th century B.C. Throughout history, enameling was used to add color in place of precious stones in ceremonial objects. Artisans used enameling to decorate religious and ceremonial objects during the rise of the Holy Roman Empire and Byzantium. The Golden Age of enameling was during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially in Limoges, France. It was during this time that enamel painting techniques were first used. Many of the enameling techniques enamelists use today have French names such as Cloisonné, Grisaille, Champlevé, and Basse Taille, all dating from this period in France.
Enamel technology has paralleled the development of glass technology throughout the world. Over time, the medium became more affordable and easier to use. In the 1700s, enamel was used to decorate objects such as clocks, fans, and binoculars. In the 1800s, industrial enameling was developed to coat steel to keep it from rusting. Today’s enameling is everything from decorative use, fine art, and industrial use.