Sunday, August 26, 2007

Precious metal clay class

I took a class on Saturday to learn how to use precious metal clay to make silver jewelry. It was incredibly fun. Precious metal clay (PMC) is actual silver powder in a clay binder that allows you to form it much like fimo clay. Then it is fired at high temperature which burns the binder away and fuses the silver. There were 8 of us in the class and we each got 10 grams of PMC to work with, which was just enough to make 3 or 4 small pieces . Since this class was to learn the process, not a design class, we used rubber stamps and punches to create the designs. Here are all of the pieces ready to be fired.

I have always loved silver jewelry. It looks better on me than gold and I am very drawn to the handmade jewelry of South America and Mexico especially. Our visit to Taxco in February, especially seeing the Spratling Museum, really got me thinking about designing jewelry. I took a class at PCC last spring and learned a lot about traditional silversmithing. Coincidentally, when we went to Boise for my niece's graduation I met Barbara Bowling at Jess's graduation party. Barbara is a jewelry artist in Boise, who makes beautiful, beautiful things. She invited me to see her studio, which was really inspiring. Take a look at her work here. Beautiful, eh? So I have just been more and more fascinated with the idea of learning more.

Here are the pieces just out of the kiln. They come out completely white.

Then you put them on a little rubber block and brush the white coating off with a little brass wire brush.

The brush gives them a nice soft, matte silver finish. If you want a shinier, more polished finish, you burnish them with this burnishing tool. I burnished the high points of the two stamped pieces. I left the two little square pieces with the brushed finish.

To get an antiqued look, we put pieces into liver of sulpher solution, which turns the piece dark. I put each of the stamped pieces into the chemical.

Then I polished them, removing the dark tarnish from everything except the impressed lines, so the designs show up better.

These are my finished pieces. When the clay is fired it shrinks about 10% as the binder burns out, and leaves almost pure silver. I put the stamp I used on the triangular piece in the photo so you can see what the shrinkage is. For reference, the finished triangle is about an inch on each side.

I am really pleased with these! I bought some findings and beads to finish these and I'll post photos when they are done.


  1. Be still my heart. Was the kiln spendy? I'd seriously love to get into this one!

  2. This looks like so much fun!!

  3. How very cool! You chose a great stamp to try it with, too. They'd also make great embellishments for quilts!

  4. Anonymous8:43 AM

    I'm so glad you got to take this class! Looks like you had fun and ended up with some nice bling!

  5. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Yeah, we "silver foxes" wear silver jewelry much better than the gold. Beautiful work, Terry. I hear jewelry-making can be very addictive--I see another obsession coming to your house soon.

  6. I just read an article in the paper about another Boise jewelry artist, Kay Seurat, who uses this stuff and was wondering what it was. Now I know. Thanks for showing us.

  7. Anonymous2:48 PM

    OMG, this looks like such a fun thing! I was looking at this clay just this weekend and thought that that was mighty expensive Fimo. Then when I figured out that it was real silver, it didn't seem so terrible. If it weren't for the need of a kiln I'd be there, too. Your pieces are really, really nice.

  8. Hi there! I just stumbled on your blog when web searching for a local supplier for PMC supplies. I live in Vancouver. Do you know of a local place I can buy some? I have found a million places online, but would love something local. Eryn

  9. Hi! I second Eryn's question about where to buy PMC in Vancouver. Also where did you take your class? I'd love to do one...