Originating in ancient Egypt, the art of enamelling has long been used to make precious metals even more colourful and beautiful; even neolithic pieces of jewellery found on Orkney itself.

Sheila Fleet Jewellery is renowned for its enamelling; with Sheila drawing inspiration from the land, sea and air and depicting these with bright hues only found in the crushed glass we use in our enamels.

Ancient enamelling

All the enamelling that takes place in our workshop is done in the traditional way – with a feather.

Here we dip the end of the feather into a pot of finally ground glass and deionised water then carefully apply it to the metal; which is heated in the kiln for a wonderfully vibrant and long lasting finish.

Erica is one of our enamellers and is responsible for applying and blending colours; all with the help of her trusty goose feather:

Erica Enamelling 1

“Any enamelled piece of Sheila Fleet Jewellery is created with locally sourced feather quills.

“The neighbouring farmer often brings us feathers he finds in the fields and we also know a lady on the Isle of Sanday who brings us geese feathers.

“Most of the feathers we use are from geese but we also have feathers left by swans; not to mention a turkey and a peacock!

“Goose feathers are my preferred quill because they are slightly smaller and not so thick which means I can be more delicate and direct with the enamel.”

On busy days, Erica and the team can enamel up to 80 pieces of jewellery – each handmade, to order.

Erica Enamelling 2

Even on days like these however, no piece is ever rushed…the enamel won’t allow it!

“Each piece of jewellery uses enamel in a different way, so to achieve the hues required we blend the crushed glass with a little bit of water. Working in this way allows me to push the enamel around the jewellery and also blend different colours together to achieve the desired finish.

“We can’t put the enamel into the kiln wet so it’s placed on top of the oven until the water has evaporated. Once this happens we pop the piece of jewellery into the kiln for 1 – 2 minutes. As the piece cools down the enamel changes colour and returns to how it looked in the pot!

“Last but not least, the jewellery leaves the enamelling room and is returned to the workshop where it is polished, set with gemstones (if required) and packaged up, ready to be sent to its new home.”

Erica Enamelling 3

To read more about the jewellery making process, why not read our blog on how we make our jewellery? If you’re ever in Orkney be sure to pop in for a tour of the workshop where you can watch Erica and the rest of our craftspeople in action!