Alison Swindles

Handmade silver jewellery



Handmade silver jewellery with vitreous enamel.

Enameling a silver ring using vitreous enamel

Here I am going to show you how I enamel a piece of my jewellery.  I am starting with a sterling (.925) silver ring that I have already made.  When enameling remember to use enameling solder when constructing your piece otherwise the solder joints will not withstand the constant firings in the kiln!

Below is the ring that I will be using.  Before enameling you must make sure that the metal is completely clean so I put it in some safety pickle for a few mins.  
















The next stage is to prepare the enamel.  I am using powdered enamel, this needs to be washed, rinsed and ground down some more before it is ready to use.  I grind the powder in a mortar and pestle.  ImageImageImage

The enamel powder needs to be washed in distilled or purified water.  This ensures that the transparent enamel colours really shine.  If the enamel is not washed properly the colours will be cloudy. I got a 5 litre container of purified water from the chemist for around £4.  Boots stock this but sometimes you need to pre-order it.

Once you have washed and prepared your enamel then put it into a container to keep it safe and free from dust.  Dont forget to label it with the colour code too so you know which colour/brand it is for next time!


Now it is time to place the enamel onto your metal.  The powder should be wet, with a thin layer of purified water over the top in the pot. Sometimes I use a brush and sometimes I use a cocktail stick to place the enamel onto the piece.  For this ring I used a cocktail stick as this made it easier to get into the edges of the design.  Try to place the enamel in a single or very thin layer of grains.  Use the tension of the water to help spread the grains so that there are no gaps but also no huge piles as the enamel will not flow and settle as paint would.  Once I am happy that the powder is thin but covering the area completely I then place the piece on top of the hot kiln to dry.  




Painting the grains of enamel powder onto the ring





So here is the ring with the wet enamel laid on.  This is now put  on top of the hot kiln to dry out. If you put it in the kiln and there is any moisture still in the enamel powder then the enamel will crack and ruin your work.  This will also happen if you layer the enamel too thickly or cool the piece too quickly after you remove it from the hot kiln.    Dont get too excited by the colours at this stage as they wont be anything like this once they have been in the kiln! Before I do any enameling I always test the colours, this needs to be done on the same metal that you are making your final piece in as enamel behaves differently on copper to silver for example.

ImageThe enamel powder dry and ready to go in the kiln.


Each kiln is different and you will need to get to know your own kiln to work out the temperatures and timing for your pieces.  As a guide my kiln is set here at 810c and I put this ring in for 2mins 20secs on each firing. Here is the ring after the first firing.  When I take it out of the kiln I just put the piece on the heat proof tile in front of the kiln and leave it until it is cool.  This took about 20mins I think, I just usually go and do something else or make a cup of tea and come back and see if I can pick it up.  

ImageImageImageThe colours will keep changing as the piece cools so dont get too worried by the colour at this stage either.




Once the piece is cooled I then put it in the pickle again.For some reason putting it in the pickle again at this stage stops the oxidisation of the silver on subsequent firings. Not sure why it doesnt work on the first firing, maybe someone could let me know why?

Anyway I wasnt too happy with the lighter shade of green on the ring so I did a second layer of enamel over the top but this time I only used the dark green colour over the entire piece.  

ImageThe second layer of enamel placed on top of the previous layer.



I dried the enamel in the same way again and then fired the ring for another 2mins 20secs with the kiln at 810c.  Here it is when it has just come out of the kiln again.


 After it had cooled I polished it up and its ready to go to the London Assay Office for hallmarking now.





New packaging is here!

New packaging is here!.

New packaging is here!

My new packaging arrived last week and I’ve been busy taking photos of it all this morning. The boxes have my name embossed on the front in silver and then they have a lovely black ribbon which is attached at the bottom.  The ribbon can then be used to tie a bow on the top, keeping the box closed and your jewellery safely inside.

Think I need to do a bit more practice on how to tie the ribbon into a lovely bow though!

Here are a few taster pictures of my new pieces in their new boxes.  The rest of my photos can be found on my Facebook page at

Along with my new oboe reed necklaces too 🙂

The making of my enameled blue earrings

The making of my enameled blue earrings.

The making of my enameled blue earrings

I made these gorgeous earrings last week and I managed to take a few photos as I went along so I thought I’d share them with you on here.


The first stage was to make the rectangle pieces.  I made these in copper and had them cast by my casting company so that the rectangles are solid pieces.  When I got them back I had to clean them up by filing and sanding them.  Vitreous enamel needs a good clean surface in order to bond properly and not crack off once cooled.

Then I applied a layer of flux, here I am using BJG C1 flux. My kiln was at 810c and I fired for 2mins 20secs.  After this I applied a very thin layer of the turquoise enamel, LJE T217.  Here it is just after it came out of the kiln.Image The colours always look a little strange when they come out of the kiln at first and they change considerably whilst cooling.  Sometimes this is a good thing but sometimes I wish I could just save the colour that they are as I love it.  The pieces are still pretty hot in this picture as the silver is still slightly red. I just put them on my heat tile to cool and it doesnt take long.


This photo is taken maybe only 30seconds later and the colour is changing rapidly as they cool down.  It is important not to rush the cooling process as vitreous enamel is glass,and so will crack if it is cooled too quickly.  I can usually handle the pieces and add the next layer after about 10-15 mins.


In this photo I have added the next layer of enamel and the pieces are sitting on top of the kiln to dry out.  This is because if I put them in the kiln with even the smallest amount of moisture in the powdered enamel, then this will cause the enamel to crack as well.  I usually leave pieces on the top for 10mins or so, depending on the size and amount of enamel but once the powder is completely  dry then it is safe to put the pieces in the kiln.


And here they are after their second layer of enamel, still not quite the right colour as they are still cooling down.  The next stage is to file the surface with a carborundum stone which gets rids of any speckles of enamel powder which have gone onto the wrong parts.  I then use wet and dry paper to prepare the metal surface for polishing.  Then its back in the kiln again for a firing to give the enamel a good glaze again (the filing and papers dull it by scratching the surface).  Image

I then place the pieces into the pickle to get rid of oxidisation.  Once they are cleaned in the pickle it is time to drill the holes in the tops.  For this I use my pendant motor and a 1.2mm drill bit.  I then polished up the pieces and attached the earring wires.  I then packaged them up in one of my logo’d boxes and they are all ready for their new home.

And now the earrings are ready to be listed in my online shop at  Image

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog.  Here I am going to share with you my journey of creating my own handmade jewellery business, my other job as an oboist and also general aspects of being me!  I enjoy baking and cooking and also all handmade crafty things and I am a single mother to my six year old son, so it will be a mix but hopefully you will find bits to interest you.

I did an evening course in silver jewellery in 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed it so I thought I would take it a stage further and do a 3 year fulltime degree course as well.  I graduated in 2010 with a BA(hons) in jewellery (2:1) and have been playing with the idea of setting up my own handmade silver jewellery business ever since.  In January 2012 I decided to take the plunge and registered as officially self-employed and I am now working on making this a reality.

I have a website which can be found at

Also a Facebook page

Also a Twitter account @alisonswindles

And also an online Etsy shop at

And now also this blog!

I hope you will join me on this journey and share in the ups and downs of it, which I will now be sharing publicly (eek!)

Alison x

Blog at

Up ↑