Silver metal clay allows for jewelry designs that are not possible with traditional silversmithing techniques. Silver metal clay is made of pure silver molecules mixed with water and organic binders to form clay. The binders burn away when fired to leave .999 silver, which is almost pure silver. With practice, you will be able to make beautiful pieces, suitable for gifts or to sell.
Choose your clay. It is available from two manufacturers: Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay. Clay is the most commonly used form, but it also comes in a syringe for making lines of a uniform circumference and paste, which is used as glue. You can also make your own paste. The products available include: original Art Clay, Art Clay 650, Art Clay 650 Slow Dry, PMC Original, PMC +, and PMC 3.
Make your piece. You can shape and use metal clay on a slick surface in the same way ceramic clay is used. It can be pressed into molds, textured using texture plates or tools, made into three-dimensional work, or flat pieces. The possibilities are almost as endless as your imagination. Silver metal clay can also be purchased in a paper form, which allows items, such as origami, to be made into solid pieces of silver.
Refine your piece. According to New Mexico Clay, the work should, “dry at room temperature for about 24 hours or at 100 degrees C. for 30 minutes." You can use a hairdryer for this purpose. Once your work is dry to the touch, surfaces can be refined by smoothing surfaces with light sandpaper, using sharp tools to carve into it, or anything you can think of. Gems may be set into your creation at this time.
Fire your piece. Both types of silver metal clay come with instructions on basic handling and proper firing temperatures. Dry work can be fired with a torch, on a stove top, in a pottery kiln, or in a kiln specifically designed for metal clay. All six types of silver metal clay have different firing temperatures, firing times, and rates of shrinkage. Firing techniques may also vary depending on the inclusion of materials, such as gemstones.
Finish your piece. When your work is done firing it will appear to be white. Polishing it with a wire brush will bring out the silver color. A high polish can be achieved using a tumbler with steel shot or by using a polishing pad and elbow grease. Beautiful colors can also be produced on the silver by using liver of sulpher at various temperatures for differing lengths of time. Try experimenting with your own finishes.
Silver clay and the equipment required to work with it is not cheap. Start by using a small amount of clay and other people’s kilns or a low-cost torch until you are sure you want to invest more money. Start by taking a beginner’s class. Although the class will cost money, you can actually save money in the long run if you know what you are doing. Join a group or club which features working with metal clay. You will learn a lot from the other members. Metal clay also comes in gold, bronze, copper and steel.
Metal clay may not be the best choice for items that get heavy wear, such as the shank of a ring. Working with heat and chemicals is always dangerous. Be sure to take proper precautions.