J K Diamonds Institute organised a creative workshop for students on Enameling (Meenakari) in Jewelry. Mr. Anil Giri was invited to conduct the workshop. He has over 17 years of experience in jewelry field. Mr. Anil Giri has been specialising in enameling since the last 10 years for many companies in different cities. He also participates in the India International Jewelry Show every year.
The motive of this workshop was to enlightened students on subject of enameling in Jewelry giving them a practical exposure. An exhaustive summary of this Knowledge enhancing Enameling workshop has been given below.
The Enameling technique started approx. 3500 years ago in Cyprus in the Mediterranean. The Indian name of Enameling is Meenakari.
Enameling is the application of glass to metal. Usually, the metal used is gold, copper or fine silver among others. The enamel is typically in the form of powder, lumps, and/or threads. It is used to add beauty, uniqueness, antique traditional look and durability especially in jewelry. Enameling has wide application.
For jewelry industry, we can describe enameling as a technique of adding color to a piece of jewelry in different forms or art.
Traditional Vitreous enamel/porcelain enamel, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to the underlying layer by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C (1,380 and 1,560 °F). The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating on metal. Drawbacks of this method is glass breaks if the pieces fall or is it hit and glass tends to get scratched as well.
Currently in the jewelry industry, the two component process is used. It is also called Pakka Meena (Indian term for Permanent Enameling) in the market. This Enamel is resistant to scratches, bumps and mechanical pressure. It is also light resistant and its colors remain unaltered over a period of time. This type of enameling can be repaired whereas in traditional enameling reheating an enameled jewelry will only damage it even further.
The process is simple. There are two bottles of Euro Teknich, one is color and other is catholic curve / hardener and both have to be mixed in the ratio of 60% & 40% respectively. The color bottle is to be shaken before use. We can mix different colors before we mix it with the hardener. Once it is mixed with the hardener, we cannot add color.
For applying color we use needles and cotton buds. To give shades of colors we can use paint brush. To add extra shine, apply transparent enamel after the whole enamel dries.
After you finish applying the enamel we need to dry it. One needs one to three hours of approx. 60 to 75 degrees to dry, depending upon the jewelry. A reasonable alternative, only in case of few pieces, is a lighter. Move the bluish part of the lighters’ fire flame to move 2 to 3 times hence any bubbles which are present will be removed. Bubbles are formed if the color or hardener is not mixed well or during application on metal.
Another alternative is where we can use bulbs or place the enameled articles under sun for a day or two. However, in case of regular quantity order, generally companies use oven to heat.
The compact baking oven is specially made for Enameling application; it allows high production volumes, maintaining top quality standards. The most important characteristics is the thermostatic system which keeps the selected temperature even by means of hot air circulation.
There are two ovens. The small oven has two trays approx 25 pcs per tray and it takes 1.30 hours to 1.45 hours at 75 degrees to dry whereas the big oven has a capacity of 4 trays approx 100pcs (depending upon the size of jewelry) and it takes 45mins to 1hour at 60 degrees to dry.
Quality of enameling depends on the material used and the use of correct heat technique. It is an art by itself and a trained artisan can make wonders out of what would otherwise be an ordinary piece of jewel.
Removal of enamel
Wet enamel can be removed by acetone or thinner with the help of a bud or needle. Dried enamel can be removed by mixing 10 per cent sulfuric acid and 90 per cent water.
Another Method used for adding Meena (Enameling) is with adhesives to stick it temporarily. This method is commonly used in imitation jewelry. It’s a temporary fixation and not durable. Hence, it can easily come out.
Types of Enamel (Color series)
There are seven types of enamel that is used in jewelry; transparent, translucent, opaque, fluorescent, pearl luster, metallic luster and glittery luster. Different effects are produced by using these enamels singly or in combinations of two or more. We can do different color shading using paint brush. Thus an opaque yellow, overfired with a transparent blue enamel would produce a green effect. Enamellers use combination of colors in their designer jewelry.
There are approx 200 colors for enameling.
Enameling / Meenakari Markets:
Enameling is practiced in many centers in India and each region specializes in its own variation of style and technique. In Lucknow the specialty of the Meenakari is blue and green enameling on silver, while in Banaras (Varanasi), the dusky rose-pink or the gulabi meena is the dominant color. The craft is also practiced in Kangra, Kashmir, and Bhawalpur. It is, however, most vibrant in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and in Delhi, and these two centers continue to create Meenakari pieces of excellence till today.
How it benefits the jewelers?
Normally enamel adds weight to the jewelry and specially impacts in precious metal such as gold. This is because in most places in India, weight added due to enameling is included in the weight of the metal. Hence, the price of the metal increases slightly, in proportion to the weight added by enameling. This is specially seen in grained jewelry (chhillai kaam).
Another major benefit in the increasing probability of selling jewelry due to innovative designs of enameling that make the jewelry set more appealing to the customers.
Care and maintaining your enameled jewelry:
One should avoid daily or routine wear specially while playing sports or any laborious task among other things.
To clean the enameled jewelry use cloth, a gentle soap and warm water. Soak your piece in warm soapy water for five to ten minutes. Using the soft cloth, which will remove any noticeable bits of dirt.
The Enameling workshop has been a success with this knowledge and fun oriented session. Few more snaps of the workshop are provided below.