Enamel is a powdered mixture of silica, quartz, borax, feldspar and lead. To produce different colors, metallic oxides are ground into a fine powder and added. Most enamel processes require that the piece be heated to approximately 1700 degrees Fahrenheit in order to melt the enamel powder and so that it might bond to the piece. The melting point of the metal that the enamel is applied to must be higher than the enamel mixture. The enamel mixture requiring the highest temperatures are fired first.

During the Victorian Jewelry Period mourning jewelry used enameling techniques. Towards the end of the century, in the Art Nouveau jewelry period designers used opaque and transparent forms of enameling to enhance their jewelry designs. Enamel estate jewelry has become very collectible to those that understand the time and skills required to create an enamel piece.

Antique Beetle Insect Enamel Gold Brooch
Antique Diamond Enamel Gold Wasp Brooch
Large 18kt yellow gold flower ring with blue enamel
Estate Enamel Gold Ring made in Italy
Antique Enamel Art Nouveau Flower Calla Lily Stick Pin
Cobalt Blue Enamel Ring

An enamel method where the designs are cut and engraved in the metal. Not only are the designs filled with enamel powder, but the entire piece is covered with transparent enamel. This method allows for many designs to be made with a variety of colors.

Champleve is a raised field. In this method, lines or cells are cut into the metal base either by carving, engraving or etching. These cells or lines are then filled with enamel powder and then fused by firing. The first form of Champleve was made with incised lines that were filled. After the enamel powder is fired, it is then smoothed and polished. Champleve was mainly used on bronze and copper.

An enamel technique where the design is outlined with bent wire or metal strips that are affixed to an object. The design is then filled with enamel powder and later fused with heat. Several firings may be needed to produce the desired colors. This technique has been used in Mycenaean, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine and Roman Jewelry. It has also been used in Anglo-Saxon jewelry of the 7th to 10th centuries. In China the technique is used on porcelain and metal ware in China, frequently during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This was originally called "cell enameling".
An enamel inlay technique that is used primarily to decorate in black on silver. The effect is metallic. Niello is not considered a true form of enameling, because of the materials used. Unlike black enamel, niello is not shiny. This process uses engraving or indenting an area, then filling the area with a black powdered alloy made of metallic sulphides (sulphur with silver, copper and lead). The next process is to heat the item to melt the powder. The temperature would approximately be about 1200 degrees. After cooling, the piece would be scraped and then polished. Niello has been found since the Bronze-Age and was used again by the Romans in the 4th century. Niello was also used by the Egyptians and early Byzantines, India, Islamic and Russians. Niello was used in the 19th century by Karl Wagner and in France by Emile Froment-Meurice. Siamese jewelry is an example of niello.

A technique in which the design is outlined in metal and then filled with various colors of transparent enamels. There is no backing for the backing. The design is usually attached to a piece of copper, then enamel is poured into the design, after the enamel is hardened the copper is dissolved by dipping the piece into acid. Plique-a-jour is usually used in gold jewelry. This method is particularly delicate as there is no backing. This type of enamel is a molasses type form and when completed looks like gemstones or stained glass. This method was discovered in the 15th century and was used during the Renaissance.

Taille d'epergne
An enameling form where the lines are engraved in the metal base and are filled with opaque enamel. There is not a variation in depth of lines in this technique. During the 18th century, this method was often used in inexpensive mourning jewelry and to decorate some bangles, watch-cases and chatelaines.

Enamel jewelry should not be placed in ultrasonic cleaners. Harsh jewelry cleaning chemicals should not be used on enamel jewelry. Enamel jewelry should not be worn while swimming, house keeping or gardening.