September 2001
Precious Metals Clay(PMC) - Silver Jewelry
Designed By Judi Kauffman

Precious Metals Clay and deep etched Red Castle rubber stamps go together like bread and butter. I had a wonderful time pressing Tactile Impressions, Textures, Rango Zoo, Leaves, Flying Seed and Essentail Words stamps into the clay -- playing and learning at the same time. I pretended that I was working with inexpensive modeling clay, not expensive sterling clay, but if I get a chance to make jewelry again in the future I think I'd plan more, work with thinner pieces (more jewelry per ounce of clay that way), and I'd definitely cut some of the clay instead of using only smooth shapes.

The pins, pendants and earrings I made are my first attempts - so instead of attempting to give expert advice and instructions I will offer the ideas and impressions of a novice.

MOST IMPORTANT: Please turn to books, the manufacturer of the clay, classes or workshops, and other sources for more information. Since the clay is expensive and the kiln in which it is fired is operated at a high temperature, there are many things to consider - the primary one of which is safety.

I want to thank Andrea Scholes for being my teacher and host and for her fabulous hospitality. She guided me, fired the pieces for me, taught me how to polish them and then she and her husband, Brian, did a great deal of the polishing (I'd still be sitting in her studio with a wire brush without their assistance).


Instructions for all projects

  1. Precious Metals Clay (PMC) is made of fine sterling particles (.999) suspended in a soft clay that burns off when it is fired in a high temperature kiln. Because projects shrink to approximately 2/3 the size of the clay piece after firing, it's important to calculate the size of rings and holes in charms and pendants to allow for shrinkage. The finished fired piece looks like it's covered with white dust till it's polished, and then the sterling is "revealed" and the piece is complete.
  2. You work with PMC much like other soft clays, though there is no "conditioning" needed the way there is with polymer -- it's more like the gray modeling clay art students use for sculpture class, only more expensive. It's sold by the ounce (one ounce will make about six small pendant charms, or two - three bigger ones).
  3. Knowing how to load and operate the kiln is important. Make sure you work with someone who has experience and if you do this on your own, make sure all the safety factors are in order -- read the instructions and make sure your wiring is right, that the kiln is situated somewhere fireproof that can stand the heat, and that your homeowner's insurance will allow you to fire the clay. Find someone who will fire the clay for you for a fee if you prefer. This is a major benefit from learning the process in a workshop or class where the firing is included in the cost.
  4. Make sure the pieces are completely dry before they are fired to avoid cracks. A couple of my pieces had little cracks on the back because they were thicker in some places and not totally dry when they went into the kiln, but Brian used a Dremel to buff out the problem areas. If the cracks had been on the front, the pieces would have been ruined, so I was very lucky.
  5. I began all of my jewelry with rounded, pebble-like pieces of clay that I smoothed and flattened before pressing with rubber stamps. My pieces are textured rather than based on pictures or images, except for the pin that has a trio of cats. That piece was pressed into the back of a metal medallion used to mold the shape.
  6. The layered pieces were made with several pieces of clay attached to each other. The smallest bead-like ornaments are pre-made sterling balls that are imbedded into the soft clay.
  7. Because I don't know metalsmithing techniques, I used a professional jeweler to create sterling pin backs and solder jump rings instead of using base metal pin backs and glue or open rings for the pendants. This added expense was more than I expected, but I felt it was worth it to have sterling findings.
  8. PMC holds the details from very complicated stamps - the leaf and pod pendants shown on chains give some idea how well the stamp images "hold" on the finished jewelry. PMC also works great with graphic, texture stamps like the linear pin that has a simple modern, elegant look.
For more information about where to buy precious metals clay: http://www.pmcguild.com

All brand names and product names are trademarks, registered trademarks or trade names of their respective holders.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Judi Kauffman and Red Castle, Inc.
Red Castle, Inc. - P.O. Box 1841 - Saint Cloud, MN 56302-1841
All Rights Reserved.