Upcycling with Enamels: Giving New Life to Old Items

Upcycling with Enamels: Giving New Life to Old Items

Upcycling is the practice of taking discarded materials and transforming them into something new and beautiful. Enameling offers the perfect medium for upcycling all kinds of worn or broken objects. By applying colorful enamel designs, you can turn trash into treasure. Old silverware, broken jewelry, chipped dishware, rusted metal fragments, or thrift store castoffs can be repurposed into amazing one-of-a-kind art pieces with some creativity. Follow these tips for upcycling old items with enamel to give them new purpose.

Choosing Items to Upcycle with Enamel

Keep an eye out for intriguing objects that capture your imagination and seem ripe for an enamel upcycling project.

Damaged Jewelry

Old damaged jewelry like broken chains or single earrings provide ideal small metal components to enamel. Repurpose them into pendants or new jewelry pieces.

Vintage Silverware and Cutlery

Upcycle mismatching flatware sets, broken or rusted cutlery, and silverplate pieces with colorful enamel designs.

Chipped Dishware and Glassware

Turn chipped ceramics, cracked glassware, or broken figurines into mosaic objects unified by enamel work.

Rusty Architectural Salvage

Add enamel accents to worn architectural metal fragments, old hinges, peeling numbers, and the like.

Discarded Hardware

Nuts, bolts, brackets, crimp connectors, and other hardware castoffs gain new dimension painted with enamel.

Metal Containers

Enamel old tins, cans, caps, watch parts, and mechanical odds and ends for industrial appeal.

Prepping Items for Enameling

Most materials require some restoration and preparation to become suitable enamel substrates.


Remove dirt, tarnish, rust and grime through cleaning before applying enamel. Scrub with metal polish, steel wool, solvents, or degreasers as needed.

Smoothing and Filling

File down any rough spots and fill holes or gaps with clear enamel, resin, or solder. This prevents enamel leaks during firing.


For delicate items, reinforce with wire or metal screening attached with solder or adhesive before enameling.


Consider patinating items like rusty objects or silver to impart antique character and contrast under the enamel.

Design Concepts for Upcycled Objects

Upcycling is about reimagining discarded items. Keep these principles in mind when conceptualizing enamel designs.

Retaining Original Character

Let the original textures, colors and shapes of the object inform the enamel designs. Don’t completely obscure its inherent qualities.

Repurposing with Purpose

Give the object renewed purpose, whether practical or artistic. For example, a plate reborn as a clock.

Updating Aesthetics

Make the object feel relevant and modern by selecting on-trend enamel colors, fonts, and motifs. Give it a contemporary twist.

Adding Whimsical Flair

Inject humor or playfulness into mundane items with fun enamel imagery. For example, ants marching across old garden shears.

Telling a Story

Use enamel accents to imply a backstory for the object. This gives it renewed significance and personality.

Executing Enamel Upcycling Projects

Adapt your technique when applying enamel to upcycled objects for success.

Selecting Compatible Enamel

Match enamel to the item’s metal composition and firing requirements so it fuses properly.

Handling Irregular Shapes

Use specialty plier tools and sable brushes to control enamel application on curved, spherical, or uneven surfaces.

Firing in Sections

Fire large dimensional items in small sections to prevent enamel running off angled areas and fusing inconsistently.

Touch-ups Between Firings

Check for bare spots after each firing and remedy with more enamel layers as needed for flawless coverage.

Sanding and Cleanup

Smooth any irregular fusion lines by carefully sanding between fused layers. Remove all residual enamel grains from bare metal.

Inspiring Upcycled Enamel Pieces

The possibilities for upcycling with enamel are endless. Let these ideas spark your imagination!

Brooches from Vintage Jewelry

Transform broken earrings, pins, and pendants into enamel embellished brooches and pins.

Numbers and Letters as Wall Art

Upcycle peeling metal numbers, letters, and signs into colorful abstract wall sculptures.

Garden Tools into Wind Chimes

Turn old rusted garden shears, trowels, and pruners into musical wind chimes with enamel accents.

Flatware Flower Sculptures

Use various cutlery pieces soldered together to create abstract floral forms covered in enamel details.

Circuit Board Jewelry

Incorporate enamel and bits of reclaimed circuit boards from computers into bold modern jewelry designs.

watch Parts Cufflinks and Tie Clips

Reconstruct watch gears, faces, and metal fragments into enamel accent cufflinks or tie clips.

Architectural Fragment Frames

Inlay enamel patterns into salvaged metal architectural details to frame and display artwork.

Finishing Touches

Special finishing techniques elevate upcycled enamel creations into professional art pieces.

Mixed Media Accents

Consider complementary wood, ceramic, polymer clay or glass elements paired with the enameling.

Green Finishing

Use recycled materials like reclaimed wood, barn board, or scrap leather to frame and display upcycled enamel artwork.

Clear Coats

Cover enameled areas with clear enamel spray, epoxy resin, or urethane for protection.

Professional Photography

Photograph your imaginative enamel upcycling artfully against creative backgrounds and edited with quality lighting.

Finding Inspiration in the Forgotten

Keep your eyes open for potential objects to transform through upcycling. Anything from broken electronics to old tools to kitchenware can be reborn with enamel designs. Rediscovering value in the discarded exemplifies resourcefulness and creativity.

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