Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Marvellous precious metal clay

Last Sunday I attended a one day Precious Metal Clay course at my local college where I attend my silversmithing classes. It was actually run by the talented Liz who also teaches me silversmithing. Our local college does these occasional "Sunday Taster" classes and they are well attended and book up very quickly.

Precious metal clay (PMC) is a really interesting medium. For my non jewellery blogger friends it is a clay-like medium used to make jewellery, beads and small sculpture. It consists of very small particles of metals (such as silver, gold, platinum, or copper) mixed with an organic binder and water. Once an item has been made it is fired either with a blow torch or in a kiln and the binder burns away leaving fine silver behind. The silver is actually purer than sterling silver and can even be hallmarked as such. Because it can be rolled out,shaped etc the design limitations are infinite. It really is a very interesting material but as it is silver it is quite expensive.

When we arrived Liz had put a great display of work she has made using PMC. She also had brought several books on the subject and each work station had box of materials that we would be needing for the day.

Our learning outcome for the day was to design and make a pendant. There were cutters, textile mats and all sort of other objects to give us inspiration. Once we had thought of our design we were told to first construct it using Fimo (a type of polymer clay). This is very inexpensive and does not dry until baked so gave us time to play with the design.

I decided to try an oval pendant with hearts added on as an extra layer. The brown piece of clay is the Fimo on the left. By using Fimo you could also practice rolling out using playing cards as spacers to get an even thickness.

I also decided to emboss the base of the pendant using the embossing mat shown here. I then cut out the oval shape with a cutter.

I then cut out some hearts and made up the dummy pendant in Fimo. A cocktail stick is used to make the hole for a jump ring to hang the pendant by.

After this it was time to work with the real thing...the PMC is quite tricky to work with. It needs to be kept covered as much as possible because as soon as it is exposed to the air it dries and is non mould able and becomes solid and brittle. We had to keep our work covered with cling film and handle it as little as possible. I repeated the process of texturing ,cutting etc using the PMC.

I assembled a PMC version of my design. This then got put onto a hot plate to dry. Normally pieces get left to air dry for 24 hours but this heating just speeds up the process as we were only there for 5 hours. After drying I carefully filed down any rough edges. At this stage the PMC is very fragile so care was necessary doing this.

Here is my piece all assemble and dry. At this stage it looks nothing like silver - does it!!

I then had to bring it up to a glow using a blow torch and carefully keep it at this temperature for 3 minutes. This burns off all the binder and allows the silver particle to fuse together to form solid fine silver.

Post firing we were told to brush off the white residue using a brass wire brush -  you can see how the silver was now visible. It was very exciting.

To finish off the piece it was put into the tumble polisher and I added a jump ring.

So here is my final piece. It really was a great day and I now have another dimension I can add to my jewellery making.

Bye for now,
Jane x

(PS don't forget to read my **days til Christmas posts, my countdown to Christmas ...a new one is coming up at the weekend and the first was posted last Saturday !)


  1. I love seeing this whole process laid out, makes me what to have a go and your final pendant is lovely.

    Very inspiring.


    PS I love Christmas too, but I live with grump it took me a lot of 'discussions' to get a real tree when we first met :)

  2. Oh wow Jane how brilliant is all of that!!
    What a clever idea with the playing cards. Your pendant is beautiful, very cleverly made. It's just amazing how it goes from looking like clay to the gorgeous silver!
    I am so impressed, wow again! (I'm beginning to sound like Kirstie Allsop). Seriously though it is a fantastic pendant.
    Vivienne x

  3. Hi Beth, PMC is really inspiring...I have lots of new ideas.
    My husband and I had even had our first Christmas tree in a flat where it took over the front room- I still have the first ornaments too...I will show some photos soon.
    Thanks for your visit,
    Jane x

  4. Hi Vivienne, the beauty of PMC is that you don't need many silversmithing skills to work with it. I had such a great time on that course.
    Thanks for your "wow" words...really kind!
    It's the most awful stormy day here and I am heading out on foot in it soon...eek.
    Keep dry,
    Jane x

  5. Wow! Wow! Wow!

    I amazed with your talent, dear Jane - and I am so happy you share these details with us. Oh how I would love to be able to make my own jewelry...But in mean while I can buy your beautiful pieces!

    Happy Thursday!


  6. Thank you Mia, you are so kind. PMC really does have a "wow" factor when it changes state into solid silver, it really is very exciting to work with.
    Happy Thursday too, keep warm with all that *snow*.
    Jane x

  7. Hi Jane, this looks like so much fun and the results are simply stunning! I'm glad you shared this! I've been curious to learn about this medium and process. Hope you're enjoying the holiday season! :o)

  8. Hi Michele,
    PMC is really fun to work with. It can also be used in a much more "organic" way as it even comes as a paste which can be piped!
    I am really getting into the swing of the Christmas season, my next **days til post will be up tomorrow!
    Jane x

  9. Hello Jane What a lovely blog you have - I can't believe I haven't found it before. The jewellery making post is fascinating, and what a beautiful pendant you've made. I also loved your previous post about Christmas (have left you a comment there too!) I look forward to reading more of your lovely blog, and thanks so much for visiting mine.
    Have a great weekend.
    Helen x

  10. Hi again Helen,
    Welcome to my "normal blog"...mind you I do love the other seasons too so no doubt will feature something with Spring etc-LOL!
    Thanks for your kind words, my pendant has been much admired...I plan another play at home with PMC soon, such clever material, shame it is so expensive though!
    Have a great weekend,
    Jane x


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Jane x