Not only was it a Sunday, but it was also my birthday and memorial day weekend. If there was ever a time to step back from work, this was it. And yet, I found myself staring at the ring I had enameled a few days before, feeling unhappy with the results. A few minor errors had compounded to give me turquoise where I expected sage green, and rather than a happy accident, it didn't feel right.
The thing is, color can make or break a ring. It's the first thing people respond to, and it holds deep wordless meaning that is subjective and powerful. It's not uncommon for me to render 150+ color combinations on my computer before landing on one that feels just right. (Try your hand at picking enamel colors on my 3D color designer, where you can play with gem, metal, and enamel colors on a ring in real time!)
So, with four hours to spare before my birthday party, I decided it was time to chemically remove the enamel and start fresh. There's a lot that can go wrong in enameling, and facing these risks a second time on this ring felt daunting. Soon, I would either have a better ring, or I might have a disaster.
The first thing I needed to do was mix up my enamel remover. Traditionally, enamel removal methods were tedious or toxic--carefully grind the enamel out with diamond drill bits, or use hydrofluoric acid to melt it away. In recent years, a remarkably safe and simple recipe has been discovered. You start by mixing 1 part table salt with 1 part Cream of Tartar, then turn it into a paste by adding some water.
I have a window in my kiln, and with green glasses on to protect my eyes from potential infrared damage, I get quite a show! I first observe a glittery snow, then the mixture bursts into flames. After all the action is done, I remove the piece from the kiln and immediately quench it.
I was blown away the first time I tried this trick by how effective it is! I had to repeat the process twice in this case, but I think that was mostly because the paste slid off the ring on the first firing.
While practically miraculous, this approach does leave the metal surface of the ring a little weird. I'm not sure how else to describe it, since I don't know exactly what happens on the chemical level. But I use a process called depletion gilding to make sure that the metal on the surface of my ring is as good as can be for enameling.
Finally back to a blank canvas, I return to my top color picks, and give it another go! I am so happy that I did in this case. I think the new enamel compliments the Sapphire so much better! With a sigh of relief, I look at the clock and find I've finished with minutes to spare. Time for my birthday party!
Do you think the new colors are better? Let me know in the comments below!
The Chloe setting featured in this post is a lovely ring, and I'd be happy to customize one just for you! Click the link below to learn more about this design.