Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4
by Karen Meador, Ph.D.
In Part III (https://www.wirejewelry.com/jewelry_making_articles/Working-with-Transparent-Enamels-Pt-3-_74.html) we examined the effect of transparent enamels
over flux on both plain and textured copper. The purpose of this part of the series is to consider some of the ways transparent enamels may be used over opaque
enamels. I will show you what works for me.
I like to use transparent enamel over Foundation White 1030 opaque. It gives me
a good idea of the transparent color since the white keeps the reddish oxide color
of the copper from showing through to the transparent. The photo shows transparent Woodrow Red 2880 over white on the left and transparent Gem Green 2325 on the right.
I like to use transparent enamel over Foundation White 1030 opaque. It gives me a good idea of the transparent color since the white keeps the reddish oxide color of the copper from showing through to the transparent. The photo shows transparent Woodrow Red 2880 over white on the left and transparent Gem Green 2325 on the right.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
I use the following steps for transparent over white. Please use all safety precautions when working with enamels and torches. These are described in the basic torch information at https://www.wirejewelry.com/jewelry_making_patterns_tutorials/Torch-Enameling-with-Opaque-Enamels_300.html)

After cutting, shaping and punching a hole or holes in my copper piece, I apply and fire two separate coats of counter enamel on the back of the piece. (For further information on counter enameling, please see the above link.)

I usually put the cooled piece in the pickle to help remove the fire scale and oxides on the front of the piece and then rinse off the pickle. (Note: I don't pickle post firing for all opaque colors but find it helpful when using white or other light colored opaques. I simply rinse the piece when using dark colored opaques.)

I sift and fire at least one coat of Foundation White 1030, applying and firing a second coat if I see any metal showing through.

Finally, I sift and fire a coat of transparent enamel over the white. If the color seems insufficient, I may fire additional coats of transparent.

The mesh size of the sifter makes a difference in the color achieved with the transparent enamels. I currently use both an 40-mesh and a 150-mesh sifter in my work. The smaller the mesh, the lighter the coat of enamel delivered to your piece. The 150 mesh which has smaller holes than the 40-mesh does not let the bigger grains of enamel onto the piece. I fired transparent Blue Heron 2650 over white for the pieces below. I used the 40-mesh sifter for the piece on the left and the 150-mesh sifter for the lighter colored piece on the right. You can see some bubble through of the white on the darker piece. This will be discussed later.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
I also use transparent enamels to vary the shade of colored opaque enamels. For example, this photo shows transparent Egg Yellow 2215 over opaque Blue Jay Blue 1560. This created an interesting shade of green.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
Often the change of shade when using a transparent over a colored opaque is much subtler. Following is a flower disk that I first coated with opaque Sapphire 1425. The second photo shows how it looks with a coat of transparent Harold Purple 2720 fired on top of this.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
You can see a nice contrast of colors achieved by using a single transparent over different opaques. The following example displays transparent Woodrow Red 2880 over Medium Fusing Clear 2030 (flux), opaque Isle Blue 1605 and finally over opaque Clover 1715. The second photo shows transparent Egg Yellow 2215 over the flux, opaque Foundation White 1030 and opaque Flame Red 1880.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
I suggest you experiment with various transparent enamels fired atop opaque to get a feel for the effect. It's a good idea to try a sample before committing to the color change on a piece you are making. You have control over your work and your sample may not appear exactly the same as one created by someone else. There are many variables such as torch or kiln use, firing time, heat intensity, mesh size of sifter, distance of sifter from piece, depth of grains on the piece, etc. that will create differences in samples. Some enamellists make and retain their own labeled samples for reference. This is likely a good idea if your variables will remain the same as when you created the samples. If you make samples, you will, of course, want to label them. Other enamellists, including me, make samples as needed immediately prior to using specific colors on pieces. I feel I have less variation from sample to piece when I do them this way. You should do what works for you.

There is a tendency for some enamels to bubble through other colored enamels particularly if the piece is fired past maturity. It doesn't mean you have done anything wrong but is simply part of the process. There are times when you may want to plan to fire longer and increase the bubble through.

Here are some examples of bubble through that occurred when I purposely fired a transparent over an opaque past maturity.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
Disk 1 shows transparent Raspberry 2836 fired past maturity over opaque Foundation White 1030. The second disk is transparent Gem Green 2325 over opaque Mellow Yellow 1239 and the third is transparent Egg Yellow 2215 over Opaque Flame Red 1880.

You can also achieve a bubble through effect by firing an opaque over a transparent that has been fired over another opaque (three layers: opaque, transparent, opaque). The trapezoid shapes received a fired coat of opaque Mellow Yellow 1239 and then a coat of transparent Woodrow Red 2880 fired past maturity achieving some bubble through as shown in trapezoid 1. Trapezoids 2 and 3 were fired past maturity with a third coat of Foundation White 1030. Note the effect of oxides particularly on trapezoid 3 where I burned the enamel off the edges so the oxides could react with the enamels.
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The next photo shows the three trapezoids after I also fired a coat of opaque Foundation White 1030 atop trapezoid 1. I think they look a bit "shabby chic."
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
I hung the three trapezoid pieces together with S links in a necklace.

The second necklace is a sampler created from various shapes I've made while writing this series. I used jump rings between S links for joining disks where I wanted to hang dangles. The remainder of the hand made chain is composed of S links.

You might want to visit https://www.wirejewelry.com/jewelry_making_patterns_tutorials/Torch-Fired-Separation-Enamel_250.html regarding how Separation Enamel can be used with opaque and transparent enamels.

I hope you will use the information in this series on transparent enamels to either pat yourself on the back regarding what you already knew or to more you forward in understanding enameling.
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels
Karen Meador, Ph.D.'s Working with Transparent Enamels Pt 4 - , Enameling, Enamel Jewelry Supplies, Enamel, Enameling, Enameled Jewelry, transparent enamels

Materials

Copper Shape, Circle, 1 inch, 6 Pieces
MET-100.06
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Copper Shape, Circle, 1-1/2 inch, 6 Pieces
MET-100.10
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Copper Shape, Circle, 1/2 inch, 6 Pieces
MET-100.01
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Tools

Basic Soldering Kit
G15-4
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Soldering Tripod
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  • Category: Enamel
  • Technique(s): Enamel