Elaine has been an enameller for seventeen years, starting her career straight from school and later joining Deakin & Francis in 2002. She was advised by her Auntie to learn the trade and now works as part of a team of enamellers which includes her cousin Dawn.
Taught by a colleague at her first job, Elaine learned the highly skilled craft of vitreous enamelling. The method which consists of four processes from the initial cleaning stage to the pumice polishing can take one to two hours to complete just one pair of cufflinks. Elaine says, ‘First we clean them with acid and a scratch brush, and then the enamelling which takes a few coats, the firing between the coats which involves placing the cufflinks in a flaming kiln and then finally pumice polishing. The enamelling is the longest process as it can take 3-6 layers, plus the firing in between. We always want to make sure they look fantastic!’
As well as requiring a high level of skill, vitreous enamelling also requires a high level of patience and a steady hand, you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! ‘I’d say that it can be very therapeutic at times. Filing can be hard as it’s quite strenuous, you need to give it some oomph! Polishing can also be quite messy.’
With thousands of designs of cufflinks available, there’s always something new to see. ‘I do enjoy the ‘cat and the fiddle’ and the ‘cow jumped over the moon’ designs, as I think they look lovely when they’re finished.’
Every design is different and each one can be more complex than the last. ‘The C1115 (circle design below) can be challenging as it’s a deep design so takes quite a few layers of enamelling.’
As well as different designs the enamellers also work with many precious metals. Elaine explains ‘9ct gold has a much lower resistance to heat than silver and 18ct gold, which has quite a high resistance, so it can be tricky to work with.’
Working for a brand with a 228 year history is not something many people can comprehend, ‘I really enjoy my job. The method we use is unchanged in hundreds of years so it hasn’t changed since I first learned the craft. It’s lovely to work for a family business with such history as you feel like it could be here for another 200 years!’