Silver jewelry making leaped out of the realm of the jeweler and into the heart of the home with the introduction of Precious Metal Clay, or PMC. Very soft, easily pliable, and able to be molded, this relatively recent form of silver allows the average crafter the chance to make extraordinary metal jewelry without metal working tools or skills. If you have a gas top range in your kitchen, or a kiln in your basement, then there is a form of PMC that will work for you.
Precious Metal Clay Silver is composed of pure silver which has been ground into a powder and mixed with water and an organic binding agent. The resulting lump clay is much softer than typical art clays. It is similar to a well made bread dough in consistency, although not airy. As the clay dries, the water evaporates out of it and the mixture takes on the look and feel of porcelain. It may be sanded and carefully etched at this point. Upon firing, the organic binder and any remaining water burn out, leaving jewelers’ grade .999 silver.
For jewelry making, the third generation of PMC offers the most benefits. PMC3 contains very fine particles of silver. Because it is more dense, it is much stronger after it has been fired. Jewelry undergoes a lot friction based stress with normal wear. Pin backs, hanging loops, and clasps require good, sturdy joins, and PMC3 holds up very well.
Because of its unique clay form, PMC may be molded and tooled in much the same way as polymer clay. Stamp it, impress it, roll it, carve it, and, if you are hungry for more, try the PMC Silver syringe or paper clay forms.
Like potter’s clay, precious metal clay can be thinned with water. Although you can buy PMC Silver slip, it is just as easy, and more economical, to make your own. Waste not, want not. All of those scrapings and scraps from tooling and shaping your PMC can be saved in a small, lidded jar with a bit of distilled water added. Adjust the level of moisture to change the consistency of your slip.
The PMC Silver syringe is an amazing tool for adding detail to designs. It is basically a thinned out clay prepackaged in a plastic syringe. As you depress the plunger, a nice line of PMC is extruded from the tip. It operates in a similar fashion to cake decorating tubes, but because the mixture has more substance, the extruded line will not scrunch; it will curl. The best way to use the syringe is to keep the tip moving while holding it slightly above your item so as to avoid drag marks. After the syringe lines are drawn, you can texture them with a variety of clay tools or found objects.
Precious Metal Clay paper adds another dimension to the possibilities. Ultra thin and flexible, PMC paper can be cut, folded, and manipulated just like paper or fabric. Origami designs, accent pieces, cut outs and hole punch elements become possible with this unique substance.
All forms of PMC can be fired in a regular kiln, but the truly wonderful thing about PMC jewelry making is that a traditional gas kitchen range may be used as well. This means every cook and his cousin has the opportunity to learn about and create with PMC. Silver jewelry making is now an at home hobby.