The Studio – Jewelry Blog by Rio Grande

Learn with Rio Grande: Basic Tools and Supplies to Begin Cloisonné

Apr 21, 2014
No Comments
Heather Apodaca
Posted by

Silver, gold, bronze. These are the typical colors in the jeweler’s palette. But what if you could incorporate eye-popping color into your pieces with just a few simple steps? Enameling, and cloisonné enameling in particular, gives you the power to play with color in any piece you make. And it’s easy to get started.


18th Century Cloisonne and Bronze Chinese Wine Pot

The artistic possibilities with cloisonné are never-ending. The process involves using strip or wire to form small compartments that can then hold enamel. The artform dates back to ancient times, when artisans used pieces of glass and stones in place of modern enamels.

Master enamelist Ricky Frank has taught several classes on the technique here at Rio, the most recent of which was at our Winter Workshop in January. His students are always asking, "What do I need at my bench to get started?".

The answer is, not much! Here are the basics you’ll need to set up your enameling workshop!

The Tools:


The Blazer Butane Microtorch and the Stainless Steel Mesh Firing Rack are all the tools you need to begin experimenting with cloisonné.

  1. This little Blazer Butane Microtorch has all the firepower you need to get started working with enamels right on your bench, and its compact, economical form makes it ideal for beginners. Torch-firing enamels is a great way to get started with a limited investment. If you try it out and LOVE it (which we’re pretty sure you will) you can upgrade to a kiln, which will give you more enameling options.
  2. A stainless steel mesh firing rack allows you to torch fire pieces from underneath.

The Findings:

  1. Copper Sheet: Copper sheet and findings are a great way to practice when you’re getting started. Move on to fine silver as you gain confidence.
  2. Copper Strip Wire: Solder on to sheet or findings to create compartments.
  3. Pre-Cut Copper Stampings: Buy the shapes you need pre-cut so you can get right to enameling.

The Supplies:


Left to right: Thompson Lead-Free Enamels come in zillions of colors, and Rio's Enamel Adhesive keeps your enamel where you put it.

  1. Thomspon Lead-Free Enamels: Thompson Enamels come in an incredible range of colors and shades, including transparent and opaque, so whatever you dream up, you can create.
  2. Enamel Adhesive: Holds your enamel in place and burns off during firing.

Would you like to get everything you need to get started (and a little more) in one easy package? Pick up the  Thompson Enamel Beginner’s Kit. The only additional thing you’ll need to buy with this kit is a torch or kiln.

cloisonneproject copy

Head over to Rio's website to try the Enameled Cloisonné Pendant Project!

Ready to get started? Begin practicing techniques with this basic Enameled Cloisonné Pendant Project. Ricky Frank will be back at Rio teaching a Cloisonné Enameling Class in October, so you can learn from a master. Mark your calendar now!


Comment on this article

Ashli’s Tumbler Series: Top-of-the-Line Jewelry Tumble-Finishing with Avalon

Feb 24, 2014
No Comments

In this fourth installment of Ashli’s Tumbler Series, she introduces us to Avalon Centrifugal tumblers. Avalon tumblers are easy to operate and provide a remarkably quick and consistent jewelry finish. They also eliminate media impingement (surface deformation or dimpling) that can be caused by certain media in other finishers. Check out this and ALL of Ashli’s tumbler posts to find the right tumbler for your needs!

...Read the Rest

Video How-To with Mark Nelson: Jett Sett is Jeweler’s Duct Tape

Jan 6, 2014
Amy Cliser
Posted by

Today on our YouTube channel, Rio Grande posted a new instructional jewelry making video all about Jett Sett Fixturing Compound. Need an easy-to-use, flexible ring clamp, or need to hold a pavé setting in place? Jett Sett can do that. Want to make a custom handle for your tools? Jett Sett can conform to the shape of your hand to ease and improve your grip. How about a texturing tool for metal clay? Jett Sett can do that too. In fact, Jett Sett is a versatile tool that can be used in countless creative ways at your jeweler’s bench. And even better, it’s reusable!

...Read the Rest

Rio Grande Tech Team’s Holiday Wish List: Picks for Every Jeweler!

Dec 2, 2013
1 Comment

This is a busy time of year for our Technical Support team as we talk to jewelers about a new process, help them through a jewelry-making challenge, and suggest tools and equipment that will make their work at the bench that much more successful. And as we talk about these innovative tools, each and every one of us, as fellow jewelers, can’t help but get a bit giddy about what WE would love to have for our OWN benches this holiday season! Here are some of our favorite and most coveted tools and equipment.

...Read the Rest

Ashli’s Tumbler Series: Create an Irresistibly Attractive Finish with a Magnetic Finisher!

Oct 4, 2013
1 Comment

Shine up your jewelry pieces quickly and easily using a magnetic finisher. Did you know a magnetic finisher takes half the time of a traditional rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot? Magnetic finishers are extremely fast and efficient, offer a great way to remove tarnish and other soils, contaminants, and debris that may be caught in recesses, details, undercuts and other hard-to-reach areas of your work. They are also a simple way to create a shiny finish.

...Read the Rest

“Man, That’s a Hydraulic Hammer!” Bonny Doon’s Urethane Forming Hammers

Sep 23, 2013
1 Comment
Viqui Sanchez
Posted by

When Phil Poirier, of Bonny Doon Engineering, showed his new urethane hammer to Eddie Bell, vice president of manufacturing at Rio Grande, Eddie was immediately excited by its possibilities for jewelry-making and said, “Man, that’s a hydraulic hammer!” Although the Bonny Doon urethane forming hammer does rather look like a colorful plastic hammer, it is actually so much more than that! Take a look at today’s post on The Studio, and see what this dynamo can do for your metal forming!

...Read the Rest

Saw Frame Know-How with Yvonne M. Padilla

Sep 11, 2013
No Comments
Yvonne M. Padilla

Saw frames. At first glance one looks very similar to the next. But, there are several features that you should consider before purchasing one. Whether you’re new to sawing or you’re a seasoned pro, Yvonne M. Padilla shares her knowledge about saw frames so that you can choose the right one for every jewelry making project.

...Read the Rest

Video Project with Bill Fretz: Twist Forged Bracelet with the Fretz Jeweler’s Sledge Hammer

Sep 5, 2013
No Comments
Molly Therese Bell

Designed by Bill Fretz, the Fretz Jeweler’s Sledge Hammer is ideal for forging heavy wire, rod, or sheet. Today, on The Studio, Bill makes a striking twist forged bracelet using his workhorse sledge hammer.

...Read the Rest

Firing a Kiln Is Very Expensive! True or False?

Sep 2, 2013
No Comments
Viqui Sanchez
Posted by

“Firing is very expensive!” We hear this pretty often. Hmm . . . is it true or false? In this post, find out the truth, and find out how to figure out for yourself how much any given firing program will cost you based on your kiln, your media of choice, and your volume of work.

...Read the Rest

Choosing Your Burs: Part Two

Jul 24, 2013
No Comments
Bernadette Bennett

In Choosing Your Burs: Part One, we talked about burs, the various metals they are made of, and discussed some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. In part two, we’ll put the bur to the metal! Learn about different types of burs and how they can make your job at the bench easier and more fun!

...Read the Rest