Enameling is the process of melting glass on metal. Cloisonné enameling is an ancient technique in which thin strips of metal wire are used to separate color areas. Enamel powders (a type of glass formulated to bond with the base metal) are applied between the wires in thin layers, firing each layer at around 1,450 degrees Farenheit. When the height of the enamel reaches the height of the wire, the surface is ground smooth to expose all of the wires and then either fired for a glossy finish or polished for a more subtle effect.
Ricky makes his cloisonné jewelry using the traditional approach: bend wires, paint enamel layers, grind the surface level; he takes a more contemporary approach to design and imagery. Colors are applied intuitively and freely. Pieces of silver and gold wire or foil are sandwiched between enamel layers to create textures and patterns of light. I've developed various techniques, which help to make the colors have an incredible depth and brilliance. The colors seem to glow from within. Enamel lumps or powders are ground in a mortar and pestle to a fine consistency, and then painstakingly applied with a tiny paintbrush. Each enamel piece is fired from 10-15 times. When the enamel surface reaches the top of the wire, I grind and finish the surface so that it feels and looks like a polished gemstone. Next comes the fabrication of the jewelry setting. Using 22 karat and 18 karat gold, or sometimes silver, a bezel rim is made individually for each enamel. Finally, the enamel is placed into the setting and burnished tightly. The whole piece is buffed, and the jewelry piece is complete.