|PMC Clay Fine Silver Pendant|
|PMC Clay Fine Silver Jewelry|
Would you like to make sterling silver jewelry like this with only a minimum investment in equipment and tools? Here is a description of how I did this.
I started out, 20 years ago, taking classes in making sterling silver jewelry at a local Community College. I had to keep signing up for the same class because I couldn't afford to buy all the equipment necessary for casting silver on my own at home. After a few years, I had enough equipment and tools to make jewelry using silver metal sheet and wire, but still didn't have any casting equipment, or the space at home for that kind of a workshop.
I continued to work with the tools I had, but wanted to create 3 dimensional designs and still couldn't afford to buy any more equipment. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In 2004, I took a new class in "BronzClay" at Rio Grande Jewelry Making Supply in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (I highly recommend these folks! They have video tutorials and tech support on almost everything they sell. They bend over backwards to get you the right tool for the job. Usual disclaimers - No affiliation, just a happy customer.)
I started with BronzClay, since it was relatively inexpensive, compared to Silver Metal Clay (PMC). Since then, I have developed a good business on my own website (www.Esprit-Mystique.com) and my Etsy Shop, selling jewelry and key rings made from BronzClay and Precious Metal Clay (PMC).
Precious Metal Clays (PMC) are ingenious materials that combine fine particles of metal (gold, silver, bronze, or copper) with fine particles of a clay binder. You can mold PMC just like regular clay. When dried, they are fired in a small kiln between 1000 & 1600 degrees for a few minutes, to a few hours, depending on the clay. The clay binder burns off and leaves the silver, gold, bronze, or copper, just like a piece of cast precious metal jewelry! Here is a piece of dried clay (BronzClay) before it was fired in the kiln:
Here are some examples of what polished BronzClay looks like after it was fired at 1550 degrees for 3 hrs:
I learned a lot from working with BronzClay, such as, how to turn my original drawings into stamps and molds, but I still hadn’t achieved my goal of creating 3 dimensional Sterling Silver pendants and key rings. So, I bit the bullet and ordered some PMC Fine Silver. I already had a small kiln to fire BronzClay, so I could use it to fire PMC silver.
I was nervous! PMC Silver was 5 times the cost of BronzClay, and more expensive than purchasing silver sheet and wire. But, my customers kept asking if I could make the same designs in silver. I decided it was worth the expense because if I made a mistake, I could easily “recycle” PMC Silver by melting it down, or sending it to a Refiner for CASH. You can’t recycle BronzClay, so mistakes are tossed in the trash and considered a $$$ loss. That is why, going forward, I am concentrating on PMC silver.
Here’s a breakdown of the minimum of tools you can get away with to make items like those above:
Programmable Kiln with kiln shelf
|Kiln Shelf Kit $14|
Roller to roll clay (6 inch piece of 1” diameter PVC pipe)
Scraper – thin metal (found at Metal Clay suppliers or, on Rio Grande website)
Glass sheet working surface, or smooth acrylic sheet, to work on so clay won’t stick.
Texture tools – Make your own original designs with Rio Cold Mold Silicone Compound.
|Silicone Mold Compound|
|Variable Speed Lathe for polishing and grinding|
|Muslin Polishing Wheel|
|For smoothing rough edges|
|Drawing - Stamp - PMC|
|Stamp and Pendant|
Find large antique buttons to use with mold material or, press buttons directly into clay.
|Antique Brass Belt Buckle|
|PMC Silver Pendant|
You can also use Polymer clay to make molds and press PMC clay into the hard-baked Polymer clay. Check out YouTube for lots of interesting ideas on how to make your own molds.
Texture stamps http://www.riogrande.com/Search/pmc-texture
Or, make your own texture design using found objects.
Or, make your own texture design using found objects.
S Shape cutters – Round circles or squares work well (cookie cutter bakery supplies).
|Swanstrom Hole Punching Pliers $40|
|Economy 4 Pliers and Cutter Set - $50|
|Sunshine Tarnish Removing Cloths 25 pack for $26|
|Patina for Silver - Liver of Sulfur $15|
Here is another way to get started with many of the items listed above. It doesn't include a kiln, but it does include a torch and DVD with directions.
|Rio Grande Starter Kit using Propane Torch instead of kiln $360|
This kit includes: -
- - PMC3™ clay; 25 grams
If you don’t have time to take a class in PMC, then check out all the
You Tube videos! You will find all the
answers to your questions and lots of creative ways make your own tools.
PMC3™ slip; 15-gram jar
Rio PMC® work surface
Rio PMC® tool kit
Rio 2-part mold compound; 1 lb.
3M polishing paper asst.; pkg/12
Straight, serrated util. tweezers
Pocket needle file set, cut #2; set/6
PMC® greenware file; pkg/3
MIDAS® liver of sulfur; 8-oz. can
Sunshine® Cloth; 5" x 7"
PMC Basics DVD
The bottom line is, that all the jewelry equipment I worked so hard to buy many years ago, are now gathering dust, since I am concentrating on PMC instead of sheet silver. I have increased my rate of production and eliminated waste. I didn't have to make a special room for casting silver and didn't have to purchase more equipment to achieve 3 dimensional pieces.
I have sold (and eliminated the need for) the following equipment and tools:
Rolling Mill ($1000) - Metal Brake ($900) - Ring sizer ($300) - Acetylene torch/tank ($350)
20 Ton Hydraulic Press ($600) - Scores of hydraulic press dies ($600) - Drill Press ($150)
Cleaner - Tent
for Art Festivals ($500) - Foredom
Flex Shaft and
If I had started out with PMC in the beginning, I would have been able to
sell jewelry online sooner, with less investment in tools. If your budget
is what is holding you back from selling online, I hope this helps get you
started. It might work for you! Feel free to contact me with any
comments or questions. I am happy to help!
Accessories ($300) - Pickle Pot and solution ($50) - Soldering Station with Fire Extinguisher
email: Designs (at) Esprit-Mystique (dot) com