This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The base of enamel is glass, colored different shades by the addition of metallic oxides mixed and melted with it.
The oxide of cobalt produces blue; red is obtained by the Cassius process. The purple of Cassius, which is one of the most brilliant of colors, is used almost exclusively in enameling and miniature painting; it is produced by adding to a solution of gold chloride a solution of tin chloride mixed with ferric chloride until a green color appears. The oxide of iron and of copper also produces red, but of a less rich tone; chrome produces green, and manganese violet; black is produced by the mixture of these oxides. Antimony and arsenic also enter into the composition of enamels.
Enamels are of two classes—opaque and transparent. The opacity is caused by the presence of tin.
When the mingled glass and oxides have been put in the crucible, this is placed in the furnace, heated to a temperature of 1,832° or 2,200° F. When the mixture becomes fused, it is stirred with a metal rod. Two or three hours are necessary for the operation. The enamel is then poured into water, which divides it into grains, or formed into cakes or masses, which are left to cool.
For applying enamels to metals, gold, silver, or copper, it is necessary to reduce them to powder, which is effected in an agate mortar with the aid of a pestle of the same material. During the operation the enamel ought to be soaked in water.
For dissolving the impurities which may have been formed during the work, a few drops of nitric acid are poured in immediately afterwards, well mixed, and then got rid of by repeated washing with filtered water. This should be carefully done, stirring the enamel powder with a glass rod, in order to keep the particles in suspension.
The powder is allowed to repose at the bottom of the vessel, after making sure by the taste of the water that it does not contain any trace of acid; only then is the enamel ready for use.
For enameling a jewel or other object it is necessary, first to heat it strongly, in order to burn off any fatty matter, and afterwards to cleanse it in a solution of nitric acid diluted with boiling water. After rinsing with pure water and wiping with a very clean cloth, it is heated slightly and is then ready to receive the enamel.
Enamels are applied with a steel tool in the form of a spatula; water is the vehicle. When the layers of enamel have been applied, the contained water is removed by means of a fine linen rag, pressing slightly on the parts that have received the enamel. The tissue absorbs the water, and nothing remains on the object except the enamel powder. It is placed before the fire to remove every trace of moisture. Thus prepared and put on a fire-clap slab, it is ready for its passage to the heat which fixes the enamel. This operation is conducted in a furnace, with a current of air whose temperature is about 1,832° F. In this operation the fire-chamber ought not to contain any gas.
Enamels are fused at a temperature of 1,292° to 1,472° F. Great attention is needed, for experience alone is the guide, and the duration of the process is quite short. On coming from the fire, the molecules composing the enamel powder have been fused together and present to the eye a vitreous surface covering the metal and adhering to it perfectly. Under the action of the heat the metallic oxides contained in the enamel have met the oxide of the metal and formed one body with it, thus adhering completely.