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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Precious Metal Clay

Create Your Own Jewelry with Precious Metal Clays
By []Chris Ralph

Precious metal clays are a brand new method and technique for making jewelry art of all types. The difference is that most popular jewelry craft methods were first invented centuries ago. Lost wax casting was practiced near the dawn of recorded civilization. Precious metal clays, however, are a new and high tech method of creating your own jewelry.

It sounds truly hard to believe. It really does sound like alchemy: How can clay become pure silver or gold metal? Well, precious metal clays consist of microscopic particles of silver or gold suspended in a soft and pliable organic binder. These materials can be handled in formed and work with simple hand tools like normal clay products. You once they have dried, and then fired in a kiln, the organic binder disappears as it is burned away, and the microscopic metal particles views into pure silver or gold. These new products allow the jewelry artist to create unique jewelry with ease, eliminating the need for difficult metalworking processes including melting, casting, soldering, hammering and cutting. Once fired, they can be filed, soldered, cut or polished just as with any other metal jewelry product.

Precious metal clays were first developed in Japan by Mitsubishi materials Corporation. However it was not until 1996 that PMC products were introduced into the United States. Art Clay, a similar product, was developed in the United States and is also used in jewelry making applications. The temperatures required for firing these materials and converting them to metal varies depending upon the particular product being used, but is normally in the range of 1200 to 1800°F, a mild red heat. Generally kiln, similar to the types used for lost wax casting burnout is used for firing the precious metal clay.

Another important thing to note about precious metal clay products is that when they are fired they shrink. The amount of shrinkage varies depending on the product that is normally in the 10 to 30% range. This can make a huge difference when one is crafting jewelry items such as rings, as that level of shrinkage would cause a ring not to fit the wearer. This amount of shrinkage is normally specified on the package and needs to be taken into account in any jewelry project.

Precious metal clay products are not inexpensive, especially the gold containing products. Their prices are notably higher than the value of the precious metals which they contain. The silver products are most commonly used by jewelry artists, because silver is a comparatively inexpensive precious metal. Both precious metal clay, and all the products that are used to produce precious metal clay crafts and jewelry are available through mail-order supply houses over the Internet. The larger supply houses include a variety of jewelry supplies, gemstones and other items that you might need to create your own jewelry art, including a full variety of the different precious metal clay products themselves.

Because clay products easily take impressions from other objects, it is very common that precious metal clay jewelry will display imprints of a variety of items. Some stamps with special imprints of flowers or other designs are made exactly for this purpose and can be used on precious metal clay just the way they would be used on metals to stamp an imprint. Additionally, because of the nature of hand making a clay product, precious metal clay jewelry often has a roughhewn, almost primitive type of appearance. This is not actually necessary or required, but is fairly common in a lot of pieces made using precious metal clay. This does seem rather odd; especially since precious metal clays are a very high-tech in modern product.

Common precious metal clay products include rings beads pendant items and other special pieces such as Christmas ornaments. It is comparatively easy to add gemstones to precious metal clay jewelry art. For gemstones that can withstand the heat of the clay firing, the stone can simply be set into the wet clay and left in place when the piece is fired. Other more delicate stones may require different techniques. One technique is to simply leave a place on the project for the stone and after firing to solder a pre-made setting onto the piece, and then set the stone into the pre-made setting once everything has cooled. This is the best method for setting stones that are sensitive to heat such as Opal or turquoise.

Much more detailed information about how you can easily make your own jewelry can be viewed at:

The author has an entire gem information encyclopedia on his website, be sure to check out the site at:

Information on actually digging for your own gems can be viewed at: [ ]Dig Your Own Gemstones

Chris Ralph writes on small scale mining and prospecting for the ICMJ Mining Journal. He has a degree in Mining Engineering from the Mackay School of Mines in Reno, and has worked for precious metal mining companies conducting both surface and underground operations. After working in the mining industry, he has continued his interest in mining as an individual prospector.

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