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Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to Make a Silver Clay Ring Using Precious Metal Clay

Precious metal clay (PMC) was developed in Japan in the 1990s as a malleable, easy to use product that produced fine quality precious metal results. PMC is a
combination of binders and fine material particles that creates a material with the same properties as modeling clay, but can be fired to produce a solid metal object. Utilized throughout jewelery making, precious metal clay has revolutionized the creative market, allowing both professional jewelery makers and hobbyists alike to create their own, finely worked jewelery.

Ideal for almost any application, silver clay (PMC is also available in gold) is an ideal way to make intricate silver findings, silver beads or even silver rings. Making a clasp finding or ring is basically the same process and involves some specialist equipment, but nothing that is beyond the reach of most competent hobby jewelery makers. Modern silver clay can be fired in a conventional oven, although if you are serious about using PMC in your jewelery making it may be wise to invest in a small kiln where the firing temperature can be more accurately controlled. Firing temperature for the clay is around 1500 degrees F and takes around 10 minutes depending on the nature of the clay and the design. Although precious metal clay does still suffer from a certain degree of shrinkage once fired, the modern versions of PMC are far less prone to this problem than the earlier forms of the clay. If you are working with smaller pieces, a kiln or oven can be replaced with a jeweller's gas torch and the heat applied directly to the clay to achieve the same result.

Because of its malleable properties, precious metal clay is ideal for making patterned objects that would otherwise require casting or engraving to achieve the same effect. The clay takes a 'transfer' pattern extremely well - by simply pressing
a patterned surface into the clay a unique texture can be achieved, even on the smallest of PMC beads or silver findings. Once fired, the final piece can be polished and because the binding agents burn off in the firing process, the resulting piece is almost pure silver and can be finished in exactly the same way as any other piece of silver jewelery.

Making a silver ring or finding is simplicity itself. Once you have the correct size of the ring you wish to make (remembering to allow at least 10% shrinkage in your final piece), a simple loop of clay can be formed around a ring mandrel. A useful tip is to wrap a self-adhesive note around the mandrel and place a tiny amount of oil on the surface to stop the clay sticking to the mandrel. Form your ring from a rolled-out length of clay approximately 1mm thick and wrap it around the mandrel, joining the two ends together carefully to ensure that there is no obvious join.

Allow the ring to dry naturally and remove it from the mandrel once it feels dry and firm. You can now use fine jeweler's files to smooth any rough edges and shape your ring. Place the ring on a heat resistant surface and apply the heat from the lit torch. The ring will begin to discolor and produce a small flame after about 30 seconds. Continue to fire the clay until the ring gives off a slight orange glow. This should take between three and five minutes. Once this point is reached, remove the heat and pick the ring up with tweezers and very carefully submerse it in cool water.

Once the ring is completely cool, it can be cleaned with a stainless steel brush until the white residue has been removed and a shiny surface is achieved. Your PMC ring can now be used in your final jewelery design.

Precious metal clay is simple to use and opens up a world of possibilities in jewelery making. It is no surprise that the popularity of this adaptable material continues to grow.

Adam Hunter - E-commerce Marketing Manager of cooksongold.com. Cookson Precious Metals offer a choice of jewellery making supplies from over 10,000 products including all types of precious metal clay (PMC) - art clay and silver clay. Other items include - jewellery tools, precious metal clay, gemstones and gold and silver sheet - gold, platinum and palladium plus technical information for jewellers, jobbers, designer, craftsmen, artisans and students.