Lines of color enameled earrings

Add the timeless technique of classic cloisonné to your enameling repertoire.

The French word “cloisonné” means “partitioned.” Cloisonné enamel is a technique that uses thin silver or gold wires to create partitions that form cells. These cells keep the enamels contained during firing, which allows the jewelry maker to create intricate designs with precisely delineated areas of color.

In the first part of this project, you’ll texturize, cut, and shape fine-silver sheet to make disk supports for the cloisonné wires.

In the second part (found on the included PDF), you’ll add enamels, fire the assembly, and finish the disks. The third part of the project (also on the PDF) has you making sterling silver bezels, which you’ll attach to ear wires and set the enamel disks into. If you like, you can add a stone dangle that complements the color of the enamels.

SUPPLIES

  • Fine-silver sheet:
    • 22-gauge (0.6 mm), dead-soft, 3⁄4 x 11⁄4 in. (19 x 32 mm)
    • 26-gauge (0.4 mm), dead-soft, 3⁄4 x 11⁄4 in. (19 x 32 mm)
  • Enamels: leaded or unleaded, 80-mesh, medium fusing
    • 1 teaspoon opaque and/or transparent colors
    • 1 teaspoon clear
    • counter enamel
  • Fine-silver cloisonné wire: .05 x .005 in., 8–12 in. (20.3–30.5 cm)
  • Klyr-Fire enameling adhesive
  • Bezel wire: 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) wide, 3 1⁄4 in. (83 mm)
  • Sterling silver wire:
    • 21-gauge (0.7 mm), round, dead-soft, 7 in. (17.8 cm)
    • 26-gauge (0.4 mm), round, half-hard, 3 in. (76 mm)
  • 4 beads: 2 mm, 4 mm

TOOLS: Check the PDF for the list of tools that you'll need, including the Enamel toolbox, Soldering toolbox, Finishing toolbox, and more. 

INSTRUCTIONS

METAL PREPARATION

Cut the sheet metal.

Use metal shears to cut a 3⁄4 x 1 1⁄4-in. (19 x 32 mm) piece of 22-gauge (0.6 mm) fine-silver sheet. Use metal shears to cut a piece of brass texture plate that is slightly larger than the fine-silver sheet. Then cut a piece of 22-gauge(0.6 mm) copper sheet that is slightly larger than the brass texture plate (PHOTO 1).

Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 1
PHOTO 1

Texturize the fine-silver sheet.

Layer the metal pieces, placing the brass texture plate on the bottom, the fine silver in the middle, and the copper on top. Line up the leading edges of this “sandwich,” and insert the aligned edge into a rolling mill. Tighten the rollers so they hold the sandwich snugly, but not so tightly that you can’t remove the sandwich. Remove the sandwich, tighten the rolling mill about a quarter of a turn, and then roll the sandwich through the mill (PHOTO 2) to texture the silver plate (PHOTO 3).

Line of colors enameled earrings photo 2
PHOTO 2
Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 3
PHOTO 3

Cut the disks.

Position the silver sheet texture-side down in a disk cutter, lining up the sheet in the 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter hole. Hammer the punch with a heavy mallet to cut out the disk (PHOTO 4)

Reposition the sheet, and repeat to cut out the second disk.

Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 4
PHOTO 4

 

Shape the disks.

Anneal the disks. Place a disk texture-side down into a shallow recess of a wooden dapping block. Use your thumb to press the disk to slightly dome it (PHOTO 5). Repeat with the second disk.

Clean the disks.

The disks must be clean before you add enamels. Clean the disks by placing them texture-side up on the floor of a beehive kiln. Position a torch flame above a disk and heat it until the surface shimmers (PHOTO 6). Be careful not to overheat the disk, or you’ll melt away the textured surface.  

Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 5
PHOTO 5
Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 6
PHOTO 6

Repeat with the second disk. Compare the appearance of a disk before (PHOTO 7, left) and after (PHOTO 7, right) it’s been heated.

Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 7
PHOTO 7

Make a sketch and select enamels.

Draw several 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter circles on a piece of plain paper. Place a piece of tracing paper over the circles and sketch a design that indicates the placement of cloisonné wires. 

TIP: Because of the slight curvature of the disks, the cloisonné wires will be easier to seat if you avoid a design that uses straight lines to span the diameter of the disks.

Use colored pencils to determine a palette for your earrings (PHOTO 8). Choose enamels that correspond to your color sketch. We chose leaded enamels for the featured earrings, but you could use unleaded enamels.

Line of colors enameled earrings Photo 8
PHOTO 8
Line of colors enameled earrings wire in process
Line of colors enameled earrings First layer of enamel
Be sure to download the free PDF for step-by-step instructions on adding cloisonné wires to your disk, and for adding the enamel to your project. 
FIND MORE: enamel , earrings , metal , wirework

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