Gems & Gemology, Fall 2017, Vol. 53, No. 3

Book Review: Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Making Enameled Jewelry

Elizabeth Zoutendyk
Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Making Enameled Jewelry
By Pauline Warg, paperback, 160 pp., publ. by Interweave, Fort Collins, Colorado, 2016, $16.99.

Enameling is a form of art that many cultures have practiced for centuries, all around the world. If you happen to be a jeweler, you’ve most likely had some exposure to the process in your career, whether facing a challenging request for repair, using the technique to enhance a design, or simply admiring the delicate, colorful work. If you are a jewelry enthusiast but not a maker, you’ve most likely seen the art form but perhaps not realized the minutia behind the beauty.

Why do craftspeople enamel jewelry, and what exactly is enameling? you may wonder. Pauline Warg’s new book, Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop, will help answer these questions. Flipping through the book, we are regaled with page after page of answers: full-size pictures that show the vibrant colors created with the enameling process. The author’s account in the introduction deepens our understanding of why. Jewelry metals can be very monochromatic, and Ms. Warg writes “I love being able to add color to my work without necessarily using gemstones.”

The title’s reference to “workshop” points to the second question: what is enameling? We think of attending a workshop, where we’ll learn hands-on practice, and also of the jeweler’s workspace, where we get a glimpse of interesting tools and various stages of enameled pieces. Ms. Warg has delivered a 160-page resource detailing the intricate art of fusing glass to metal. The book includes essential information, step-by-step project instructions, links to other well-known authors and books, and a list of resources and supply houses.

The book’s first section, "Enameling Basics," provides a wonderful general introduction to enameling that is both easy to read and informative. It includes enough of the science behind the methods for the reader to understand what is happening, but not so much as to bog down the reader. For those who are inspired to pursue enameling, there are other, more process-intense publications that include the expanded science; that is not this book’s intent.

Another key aspect of the first section is a thorough overview of the tools and setup necessary for enameling. In general, jewelry making is a tool-rich activity, and enameling takes the richness to a whole new level. Having basic jewelry-making tools is not enough to start enameling in your studio, and the author does a good job outlining the difference between the two. Further, she is very thoughtful about listing not only what tools and supplies are needed, but also the skills necessary to complete a project. Instructions on how to use the tools, process photos, and troubleshoot, and reminders of general safety concerns guide readers through the methods to create enameled pieces. Lastly, and most importantly, after reading the first section we are left inspired and ready to get busy in our “workshop.”

The main body of the book, titled "Projects," features a series of 20 enameled jewelry projects with step-by-step instructions. The way the author created connections between terms, similar processes, and sections where expanded explanations can be found is very well thought-out. Not only is it like having an instructor present, but it also helps the reader navigate without having to reread similar instructions in each section.

Here and there throughout the book an entry-level jewelry maker may feel a little lost. A few pages include written descriptions of tools that, while standard in a well-used jeweler’s shop, are not everyday knowledge. Although the book is described as appropriate for someone wholly new to both enameling and jewelry making, this is a tall order for one publication. More than likely the reader will need some prior courses or additional books to understand some of the instructions.

Another area that may leave a beginning enamelist feeling behind is the instruction of loading pieces into the kiln for firing. Balancing a small piece of metal coated with ground glass on top of a metal trivet, carefully placing these on a wire rack, and then successfully balancing the three items on a long-handled firing fork while gently placing them into a 1450°F kiln is a precarious maneuver! While Ms. Warg does outline the method, not including a full-size image of the practice in the extensive photos is an oversight, considering it is such an essential part of the enameling process. The author does, however, carefully outline the different types of kilns, as well as the difference between an enameling, or jeweler’s, kiln and a top-loading ceramicist’s kiln.

The flow of the book from one section to another is well thought-out and easy to follow, transitioning nicely from entry-level enameling to more complex projects. The author very thoroughly covers the volume of information necessary to teach how to enamel, while also taking into account how to make a lovely piece of jewelry.

Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop is a great pick for any beginning to advanced jeweler. Having a copy on your bench will inspire you to get working and to start dreaming about how to add beautiful color to your jewelry designs.

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