Tip Tuesday: How to clean 3 Types of Enamel Jewelry

There are many kinds of enamel jewelry, yet each piece was created by applying pigment. Sometimes the pigment is suspended in glass and then applied to the metal, sometimes it is applied directly, sometimes it is applied wet, or dry, with heat, or without.

Caring for enamel jewelry is not difficult if you know what kind of enamel you have. The three most common types of enamel jewelry are direct paint, a pigment in glass, and glass powder in metal cells. Each of these techniques has its own name.

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Painting on jewelry, usually metal, is called painted enamel. It is the simplest of the enamel processes. The earrings below are an example of painted enamel jewelry.

antique vintage enamel earrings

Adding pigment to sand before pouring or blowing colored glass into shapes produces enameled glass. The antique necklace below contains many Czech enameled glass “beads.” Each bead is shaped, polished, and cooled before mounting in custom settings.

Czech Enamel Glass Necklace

When a craftsman takes an enameled glass, crushes it to powder, pours the powder into metal cells, then heats the entire piece (typically in a kiln, though not always) to melt the powdered glass into place it produces cloisonné enamel. The brooch below is an example of cloisonné enamel.

how to clean cloisonné enamel brooch jewelry

To clean painted enamel jewelry use a dry, soft toothbrush. See what debris the toothbrush can remove by brushing the piece. Do not scrub, brush lightly. For greater layers of grime, you can use a slice of bread. Really you can. I was very confused when, as a girl, I walked into the kitchen and my great-grandmother was wiping her floral green, enamel-painted tumbler and glass set with sliced bread.

Take a slice of soft, doughy bread and press it into your enamel-painted jewelry. Lift the bread and see what comes off. If stubborn layers remain, gently wipe the bread across the piece. Move the bread in circles but keep the pressure light. Sealer thickness determines how much pressure a piece can take without damage. Check the bread frequently and when it is dirty, compost or otherwise dispose of it and wipe gently with a second, and if needed, a third and fourth piece of bread until the painted enamel jewelry is clean. Brush the bread crumbs off the jewelry with a dry, soft toothbrush.

To clean enameled glass, wipe the jewelry with a microfiber cloth. If there is grime in or around the settings, use distilled water and a soft toothbrush. If stubborn debris remains you can use diluted ammonia or a mild glass cleaner and a soft toothbrush. Dry with a microfiber cloth.

To clean cloisonné enamel, first, remove any dust with a microfiber cloth. If debris remains, mix warm distilled water and ammonia: 1 cup water, 1 tbs ammonia. Dip a corner of the cloth into the ammonia water and carefully wipe your jewelry clean. Rinse, and dry thoroughly with the microfiber cloth.

Thank you for visiting with us today, we hope these quick tips help keep the enamel in your jewelry box, and in your house, looking fabulous!

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