What is enamel jewellery?

Sheila Fleet’s jewellery is renowned for its vibrant enamel colours; enamels that are inspired by the seasons and the ever-changing colours of Orkney’s seas, skies and landscape. A single Sheila Fleet enamel is a blend of colours that create a flow of colour or ‘colourway’. These colourways are unique to Sheila Fleet Jewellery and over one hundred have been created, including Sheila's iconic PentlandStorm and Mill Sands enamels, and her vibrant Rainbow and Hot Pink.

The enamel in Sheila Fleet enamelled jewellery is made from molten glass. All of Sheila’s enamels start as solid crystals of coloured glass, which are ground into tiny grains, a bit like sand, and then applied by hand to each piece of jewellery at Sheila’s Orkney workshop. The jewellery is then heated until the glass grains fuse together, forming a beautiful, unique, and durable enamelled finish.

How is enamel jewellery made?

The skilled enamellers at Sheila Fleet Jewellery use quills made from robust swan, peacock, goose or turkey feathers to enamel Sheila’s jewellery. A quill is dipped into a pot of coloured glass, and the tiny glass grains are carefully applied to each piece of jewellery. Almost all designs require a mix of several colours, which are blended by ‘stippling’ from one colour into the next to create a subtle flow of hues.

Enamelling a Sheila Fleet Pentland design.

To create the final enamel, the jewellery is put into a small kiln and heated to around 800°C (1500°F) until the glass grains melt. Different designs require a different length of time in the oven. A small earring, for example, might need less than a minute while a large pendant might require up to three minutes. Creating our blended enamel colours by hand ensures that each piece of Sheila Fleet enamelled jewellery is unique.

Our enamellers take great pride in working on one customer order at a time. Whether you order a pair of earrings, or an entire set of jewellery, your whole order will be done by one enameller. And once the enamelling is complete, the enameller will take the jewellery back to the jeweller who made it, for a final hand polish. This means that a maximum of two people in our workshop—one jeweller and one enameller—create your jewellery.

Seeing this for yourself is a magical experience and visitors are always welcome at our workshop in Orkney. Let us know if you’d like to watch your ring, or any other piece of jewellery you’ve chosen, being made and enamelled especially for you!

Sea Motion ring being placed in one of our kilns to bake the enamel.

How do you clean enamel jewellery?

Caring for your enamel jewellery and keeping it clean is a relatively simple process. Wipe your jewellery with an anti-tarnish cloth after each time you wear it, and then store it in the anti-tarnish paper provided in your original Sheila Fleet Jewellery box. This will help it look its best for as long as possible. If your enamel jewellery does become tarnished, you can safely use most ‘silver dip’ solutions, although you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure.

We have a comprehensive guide on how to clean and care for your jewellery in the Jewellery Guides section of our website. This covers enamel jewellery, and is a resource we recommend all owners of Sheila Fleet Jewellery read. If you’re ever in doubt about the best way of cleaning your enamel jewellery, please get in touch and we’ll be able to help.

Can I choose my own enamel colours?

When designing a new collection, Sheila will work with the enamel colours that best enhance the design of each individual piece. Take a look on our website, or in our shops and galleries, and you’ll notice that some collections are available in one enamel, while others are offered in a range of enamels. If you’d prefer a different enamel used in your chosen design, please contact us to discuss. We are certainly happy to use alternative colourways, but it’s important to talk to us as not all enamels can be applied to all designs. Greens and blues, for example, can be done on almost all of Sheila’s designs, but pinks and reds only work well on a selection of pieces.

Development of the Sea Motion enamel colourway.

Planning your special day? Why not have jewellery made to match the colours of the bridal party. We invite you to send us swatches of your wedding dress material, bridesmaids’ dresses and groom’s outfit. Our Crystal and Frost enamels can be a perfect complement to the bride’s wedding dress, while some of our colourways based on blues and greens, or purples and pinks, can look fantastic with bridesmaids’ dresses.

If we don't already have an enamel colourway that is a match for your material, we can discuss creating a new colourway for you for a small charge. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss your wedding jewellery in more detail.