I was invited by the London Jewellery School to try out one of their taster classes, so I jumped at the chance to try working with precious metal clay (PMC). I’ve seen it around the internet and have been intrigued by the possibilities it offers to make jewellery in real silver without the need for traditional silverworking skills and tools. It can be shaped like polymer clay, but contains silver particles with water and binder – the other bits burn off when fired leaving a pure 999 (purer than regular 925, even) silver charm.
The lovely tutor Chu-Mei started by giving us a quick history of PMC, its properties and uses, then she demonstrated how to use cutters and textures to make a small charm. There are many ways to shape the clay, from cutters and moulds to drawing freehand shapes, and anything from leaves to leather can be used to add texture.
I decided to go freehand, cutting a button and feather shapes from my clay (playing cards are used to transfer the shapes and as a rolling thickness guide). You have to work fast because the clay dries out quickly with handling and exposure to air. Our shapes went onto a hotplate to dry out (you can also use a low oven), then a hole for the jump ring is drilled using a fine drill bit. Then Chu showed us two ways to fire the charms – either the traditional kiln method or a more DIY method with a kitchen blowtorch, which only takes around 2-3 minutes.
This was the exciting part. After firing, the shapes are still matte white but after a quick polish they magically become shiny solid 999 silver! There were tons of oohs and aahs as people unveiled their new jewellery charms. My efforts are a little rustic but for a first try I’m very happy with them. The best part is that the process is completely achievable at home using fairly everyday materials, and I had two lovely wearable charms to take home at the end of the class.
You can pick up PMC from beading supply shops and eBay. The raw material is pretty expensive, but there’s absolutely no wastage as unused clay or broken pieces can be ground back down and mixed with water to create new clay. I’d definitely recommend the London Jewellery School‘s taster classes as a great way to try out the process without spending much money (the PMC class is £35 including all materials), and they offer lots more advanced classes if you’d like to learn more.
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