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Frequently asked questions: Silver metal clay

There are loads of questions I get asked when people visit me at my stall at markets so I thought I would do a blog post on some of these frequently asked questions. This post is dedicated to the brilliant thing that is silver metal clay.


What is Silver Metal Clay?

Silver metal clay originated in Japan in the 1990's and believe it or not that coffee bean pendant to the left is made from silver metal clay. It's an amazing medium for crafting beautiful silver jewellery, beads and small sculptures. Mitsubishi and Aida were the first 2 main manufacturers of silver metal clay producing Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay Silver respectively. the clay is made from pure silver particles mixed with organic binder and water to give you a clay like substance. This can be used in the same way as clay, or polymer clay to make a variety of shapes and objects. Once it is dry (put to 24 hours if left to dry naturally) is can be sanded and the design refined and then it is fired to leave you with 99.9% fine silver. This is suitable for hallmarking if required.


How does the metal clay turn into solid silver?

Once the clay is dry and the design refined then the clay needs to be fired. The beauty of silver metal clay is that many of the brands available can be fired with a cooks torch, onto of the stove or in a kiln. This means that anyone can make their own jewellery at home with this as cooks torches are readily available.

During the firing process the organic binder burns away and then the piece is heated up to a soft apricot colour glow and held there for a period of time depending on the manufacturers guidelines. Technically, when the binder burns away then spaces are left between the metal particles. The longer the piece is fired at the correct temperature the closer these bonds become and the stronger the metal is. This is known as sintering. Hadar Jacobson describes this process as imagining a bowl of ice cubes in the freezer. Ice melts at 0 degrees Celsius, the temperature in the freezer is below that. if we bring the temperature of the freezer up but not up to zero Celsius then the ice cubes start sticking together and at some pint we can pick them up as one solid unit. They aren't touching at every single part of their surface so the ice is porous. You can keep bringing up the temperature so the porosity reduces but don't heat the ice to the point of melting as this ruins the solid effect. We don't heat the silver to the point of melting as this will clearly ruin the piece being made.


Is silver metal clay strong?

Silver is considered a soft metal. It doesn't have the hardness of gold. Silver is frequently alloyed with other metals such as copper to make it harder. This is where 925 sterling silver comes from. 92.5% of the metal is silver and the other 7.5% is copper. This is harder than 99.9% fine silver which is what you get when you use silver metal clay. This means that some jewellery is better suited to silver metal clay than others. Pendants are a perfect use of silver metal clay and earrings as well. Lots of people make rings with silver clay and these are also gorgeous but may not stand up to everyday wear and tear as well as sterling silver or gold.


Is silver metal clay eco-friendly?

We are all trying to be mindful of the planet these days and the good news is that silver metal clay is absolutely eco-friendly?

Silver metal clay is a reclaimed material and contains no other metals. The manufacturing process for this clay is virtually zero waste and means that it is 100% recycled and eco-friendly. If you see my previous post about is silver the new gold you will see that a huge amount of silver actually ends up in land fill so this product helps to reduce the amount of silver going to waste.


Do you have any other questions about silver metal clay?

Did you know I do classes on silver metal clay? Sign up to my newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming classes.

TTFN

Sam


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