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Old 06-11-2002, 08:19 AM   #1
Lapa
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Order and Medal Manufacturing 101

Well, I'll start the ball rolling.

As far as I know, all soviet award were struck, which is a common process for medal and order making.

The mint usually first creates one or a few samples/prototypes/models, whatever name you want to give that piece. from this working model, skilled mint engravers engrave the die(s); in some cases (single piece medal or order), it can be a simple pair of dies (front and back), in the case of multipart orders, each part requires its own set of dies.

At this point in the manufacturing process, there appears a first option:
. either the mint decides to engrave a set of dies, then, after an involved process of design transfer and hardening, produces a set of working dies which is then used to strike the medal/order. However, dies wear off due to friction with the blank being struck and to pressure exerted, and sometimes even break. The engraver(s) then need to engrave new die(s) which will not necessarily be exactly identical to the original one.
. or the mint can decide to create a master hub, which as its name implies, is used to make impressions to produce identical working dies. In this case, every subsequent working die sets are identical.

Once struck, the pieces are then "processed": rivets are added, pieces are soldered together, etc.

The enamelling process can happen either before or after assembly. To keep the enamelling process simple (there may be a few variations in the materials or techniques used):
. the piece to be enamelled is cleaned with chemicals to remove all impurities, grease, etc
. a special underlay substance called flux is then carefully placed all over the surface to be enamelled. The flux allows the enamel to properly adhere to the metal (there is always some traces of flux visible close to the edge of the enamel, sort of yellowish looking)
. The glass enamel, which is a very fine powder, is then spread thinly all over the area to be enamelled. Point to note, the color of the powdered enamel is not necessarilly related to the final color of the enamel; for example, red enamel is actually a white powder.
. The piece is then fired in a special high temperature oven. THe actual temperature used depends on the metal used (gold/silver/bronze) and on the enamel color (different enamels can have different fusion points)
. Once cooled off slowly (otherwise the enamel will crack), the process is repeated for other enamel colors (in the case of multicolor enamel order). Once the piece has been fully enamelled, it is then polished using a variety of abrasives, starting with coarse and finishing with extra-fine ones.
. If needed, the piece is then plated (gold/silver/nickel/chrome) by eletroplating. Plating DOES NOT adhere to enamel.

The order is then assembled, the suspension is added (if any), and there you have it. If you are Monetniy Dvor, you just produced a nice, rare and valuable order; if you are anybody else, you just finished assembling yet another fake that hopefully will escape the eagle-eyes of the members of this forum for long enough to defraud as many people as possible .

Marc
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Old 06-11-2002, 02:44 PM   #2
Tal Inbar
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ENAMEL

(Copyright: Shawn M. Caza, June 1998)



Enamel, Cold: Cold enamel is actually a paint or varnish. It is applied at room temperature ("cold") to the object in the same way that paint is. Cold enamel may be used to create opaque (solid) or translucent (clear) colours. Cold enamel is very thin and tends to pool in corners and crevasses, it is often done sloppily even on official badges. Colours are often very "washy" or faint. While it is used on many fake and fantasy pieces cold enamel was also used for genuine badges. Many badges which were made of hot enamel in the 1940's to 1960's where made with cold enamel by the 1970's and 1980's (for example the red stars on enlisted cap badges). This transformation was often accompanied by a change in materials from brass to aluminium.

Enamel, Fake: Fake enamel is really a type of epoxy which is usually mixed with paint to give it a colour. It is usually a sign of forgery though sometimes minor repairs were made on legitimate items using fake enamel. Fake enamel looks dull and cannot imitate the brilliance that a translucent hot enamel has. Under U.V. ("black") it often glows or looks milky.

Enamel, Hot: Hot enamel is true enamel. It is made either by placing small coloured grains on the object which then melt when baked at high temperatures, or (more commonly nowadays) by pouring the hot melted liquid onto the object. Hot enamel may be used to create either opaque or translucent colours. Hot enamel is thick, of high quality, has definite colours, and does not usually glow under U.V. ("black") light. Hot enamel was sometimes applied in a sloppy manner, especially during the war. Soviet hot enamel is the direct descendant of the famous Tsarist enamel, many artists from the Tsarist era worked on Soviet badges and orders. Hot enamel is not necessarily proof that an item is genuine! Many valuable and rare Soviet military orders and badges have been faked using hot enamel, real silver and gold, etc.
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Old 06-25-2002, 04:35 AM   #3
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Tal,

I read with interest the article you posted. However, as a practicing enameller, I have never heard of a technique for pouring hot enamel (you can d that with a few substances, but definitely not with hot glass enamel).

Part of the reason for that is that glass enamel is a somewhat fragile and at times temperamental substance. In a nutshell, it needs to be fired just long and high enough to fuse it. If baking time is too short or temperature is slightly too low, if will not fuse properly (there might be blobs in the finished enamel, clarity may not be consstent, etc). If you bake it too long or too hot, you may end-up with "burnt" enamel (traces appear in the enamel, I believe from chemical reaction due to the excessive heat), or the dreaded "orange-peel" appearence. In any case, it is back to square one: need to dissolve the defective enamel in acid (I'll keep the actual chemistry to myself not to encourage vocations ) and start anew.

So, I am at a loss (technically speaking) regarding pouring hot enamel. It would require some very strict constraints such as:
. extremely precise temperature of the enamel
. matching temperature of the metallic support (you can't pour glass enamel on cold metal)
. matching temperature environment
. difficulty to handle fine details (pouring 1500 C glass is one thing, making sure it hits the right spot is quite another). I'll stick with the time-tried method of applying powder with extrafine brushes in order to keep my fingers in working order.

Although I do not pretend to know all existing enamelling techniques (quite far from that ), I do not believe that the technique described in the article you posted is applicable/usable for manufacturing orders, what is essentially jewelry. I could envision such a technique as you described being used in an industrial context where quality of the finished product matters little, output quantity is primordial and designs rather simple (like pins, for instance).

Marc
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Old 12-30-2002, 03:42 AM   #4
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I am the author of the extract on cold, fake and hot enamels that Tal pasted. I fully admit that I am not an expert and it was the best I could do at the time. I defer to Marc's (Lapa) excellent notes on true enamel use on orders and will update my site at some point to reflect it.

To apportion blame I got the info on poured enamel from an ex-girlfriend who was an artist. She did larger work, as Mark hypothesized, including lamps and "murals" not jewellery or orders.

Shawn
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Old 07-08-2003, 03:16 PM   #5
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Gentlemen,

I thought this would be interesting to post since it's nice to know how these things are put together/made.

The following was taken from a commercial site; otherwise I'd just post a link...

This is how Japanese awards are made. I believe it's not that much different from how Russian awards are made...

Either way you'll get the general idea...


1. Impressing - Silver plates are mechanically impressed with the design of the master die.

Trimming - Unneeded portions are trimmed with a fret saw.

Filing - The blank is finished by filing.

Glazing - The impressed blank is glazed with enamels.

Baking - Enamel is baked in an electric furnace.

Buffing - The enamelled piece is polished by buffing to improve its lustre.

Plating - Gold is plated on the required portion.

Assembling - All components are inspected and the order is assembled.
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Old 07-08-2003, 05:33 PM   #6
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Thank you for the illustrations, these are quite handy for most people to visualize the actual manufacturing process. This has already been discussed at various times.

I want to point out a few variations from the steps displayed when it comes to the manufacture of Soviet orders:

1. The stamping is made on pre-cut blanks. This is evident when you compare the edges of the finished Soviet orders (no filing/adjustment marks). Just like a coin is minted on a prepared blank, so are/were Soviet orders. This means that Step 2 (trimming) did not apply in the case of manufacturing Soviet orders.

2. I personally would talk about "enamelling", not "glazing". I may sound picky, but here we are dealing with real glass enamels.

3. The Buffing stage can actually be more than simply shining the newly made order. Some enamelled pieces are actually polished with extremely fine grit abrasives to make a perfectly somooth surface between enamel and metal (either surrounding or included), like for instance the letters on the Order of the Red Banner, or the white enamelled ring on the Order of Service to the Motherland in the Armed Forces. There is, of course, a buffing stage once each part of the order has been completed.

4. Plating: the picture shows the method of plating by electrolytic bath, which the Soviet Union stopped using since the 1930's. Instead they used an electric plating machine (sort of like a small pen that plates the silver wherever you touch it), which allows for fine detail plating work.
Hope this helps,

Marc

Last edited by Tal Inbar; 11-05-2004 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 07-08-2003, 07:36 PM   #7
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Marc,

Thanks for the additional info!

So the steps I posted are of Cold-Enameling?

Thanks,

Rusty.
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Old 07-09-2003, 05:11 PM   #8
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Hi Rusty,

No, what you posted is an illustrated guide to producing Japanese awards , which also use hot enamel.

Soviet award manufacturing is similar in general terms, but some operations are simply conducted differently (using different techniques); once again, these differ mainly in the use of pre-cut blanks and of gold-plating the pieces.

Marc
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Old 07-09-2003, 07:00 PM   #9
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Lapa,

So how does Russian enameling differ from Japanese?

Thanks,

Rusty.
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Old 07-10-2003, 04:14 PM   #10
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Rusty,

Well, enameling is the one part that is similar. Both use high quality glass enamel; it comes as a very fine powder that is delicately placed on the piece. It is then fired in a high temperature oven/furnace until fused.

In my first reply to your posts, I only emphasized that I disagreed with the term "glazing". Orders and medals are enameled, whereas pottery is glazed. Although the end result is somewhat similar (shiny, glass-like surface), they use different components, that's all.

Hope this clarifies somewhat what I wrote.

Marc
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