Book Review: Enamelling by Ruth Ball

Enamelling by Ruth Ball, forms part of the Jewellery Handbook series produced by Bloomsbury, which is aimed at students or those wanting to experiment in a new area of specialism. Its intention is to introduce enamelling as a technique whilst providing guidance, historical context and inspiration along the way and it does this in bucket loads!

I love this book, I’ll be honest. I have had it for many years now and the pieces featured inside never fail to amaze me with their artistry and sheer complexity.

enamelling book

Enamelling by Ruth Ball (999 A53)

I have been a big fan of enamelled jewellery for many years now, and after reading Ruth Ball’s fantastic book on the subject, I can honestly say that I am now an even bigger fan!

Published by Bloomsbury as part of The Jewellery Handbook series, ‘Enamelling’ by Ruth Ball is intended as an introduction to the technique, which will equip anyone new to enamelling with the necessary information to facilitate a foray into a new discipline.

Spread across 128 pages which are divided into 10 chapters, this book is actually quite concise when you consider the amount of information contained in each section! Enamelling is such a labour intensive technique that breaking the subject down in this way makes it much easier to digest, and consequently a valuable learning resource.

Chapter 1 gives a brief introduction to enamelling followed by some safety tips and an explanation on the necessary tools and equipment needed. Chapters 2 and 3 are much more comprehensive and focus on the different types of enamel available, but also the preparation of materials and planning required for each individual project. These are crucial stages in the enamelling process and accordingly, these chapters are some of the biggest in the book. However, they are well written and strewn with great photos which will guide you through step by step.

“Setting can be employed on a practical or decorative level to incorporate sections of enamel into a design. Enamelling a piece then setting it separately is an excellent way of avoiding any soldered component”.

From Chapter 3, Designing for Enamel, Enamelling by Ruth Ball


Facets of Universal Colour by Sharon Scalise (image source: Sharon Scalise Jewelry)

From here the book then starts to examine the 4 main techniques of enamelling in more detail with a chapter devoted to each: Cloisonné, Champlevé, Painted Enamel and Plique A Jour. Each chapter is again broken down into bite size sections, whilst being littered with the most beautiful examples of work by some of the leading artists in the enamelling genre which are truly inspirational. This book also has colour photographs liberally distributed throughout, which are of a fantastic quality.

Having covered the main techniques, Ball then moves on to cover ‘Additional Techniques’ which explains things such as the use of foils and leaf, screen printing and stencilling, as well as explaining how to use ready mixed liquid enamel as opposed to the traditional granular variety. Many of the techniques described in this chapter are considered quite modern, and are relatively straightforward to achieve in comparison to the more traditional ones. Most are created by simply sieving the enamel onto the metal surface, which is a great starting point for anyone feeling a little nervous of attempting Cloisonné or Champlevé from a standing start! I like the fact that these are included as they represent a nice and achievable ‘way in’ to enamelling.

The main text is rounded off with a small chapter on ‘Troubleshooting’, followed by a gallery of images which will whet the appetite of anyone still in any doubt of the capabilities of enamel.


Graffiti Brooch by Penny Davis (image source: Studio Fusion Gallery)

‘Enamelling’ by Ruth Ball is a book which can be enjoyed for instructive and recreational purposes, as anyone even vaguely interested in jewellery will take pleasure in discovering more about this fascinating technique. Personally speaking, I can safely say that I have even more admiration for anyone who works with enamel, now that I truly understand just how much dedication and perseverance goes into producing it.

In terms of inspiration, this book is absolutely superb and will not fail to ignite your interest in all that enamelling can bring to a piece. As far as practical application is concerned, this is more intended as a showcase on what can be achieved and how, rather than a guide on how to do it specifically, although practical advice and tips are plentiful throughout. A great addition to any jeweller’s book shelf.

Have you been inspired to give enamelling a try? Or maybe you just want to learn more about this fascinating craft? Order your copy of ‘Enamelling’ by Ruth Ball now from Cooksongold.

Written by Joanna Varney

Joanna has worked in and around the jewellery industry for well over 20 years. She has designed and created her own pieces as a designer maker, as well as working in jewellery retail on a much larger scale, producing designs and NPD for some of the UK’s largest high street retailers

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