I was asked to design a dog tag style necklace for a friend’s boyfriend as a birthday present. She liked the idea of it having enamel on it and wanted it to be made of solid silver. Here are some of the ideas from my sketch pad.
There were a couple of designs which stood out so I made up some prototypes using copper and base metal. I used a bit of enamel on them but the colours react in a different way if you put them on a base of copper as opposed to a base of silver, so the colours were very vague on the prototypes.
Once the design was chosen I began working in sterling silver. I used 2 sheets of sterling silver that were 1mm thick. One piece for the base and the other to sandwich on top. I drilled holes in the top piece and cut out the shapes that I had drawn. The shapes were then carefully filed around the edges and tidied up ready for soldering.
I soldered the two layers together and filed the edges smooth.
I use a solution of ‘picklean safe pickling powder’ to clean the silver up after soldering. Here is the dog tag in the pickle.
Next I had to prepare the enamel powder by washing and rinsing it in distilled water. This is important to make sure the enamel doesn’t go cloudy when it is applied and fires in the kiln.
The enamel powder prepared and ready for use. The enamel is wet packed onto the dog tag using a fine paintbrush. Once it is applied I put the piece on top of the hot kiln in order for the powder to dry as any moisture left in the enamel when you fire it will cause cracking once the piece is in the kiln.
I fired this piece a total of three times, for 2 mins each time, at a temperature of 810 degrees Celsius. The final firing I did at 820 degrees Celsius. In between firings I cooled and then pickled the dog tag. Then I wet packed the enamel again as another layer over the top of the previous layer of enamel. This intensifies the colour and raises the level of the enamel too.
Once I was happy with the enamel I polished the piece in the normal way, using wet/dry paper in various grits and then tripoli and finally rouge. After adding a jump ring and silver chain the piece was finished and ready for the customer.