Metal Clay Jewelry

How often does a brand-new craft medium come on the scene? Not very–but it’s happened to us. Metal clay is a dramatic, new hybrid medium that in some ways is like its parents and in others is like any offspring–displaying a distinct personality all its own.

First appearing about 1990 in Japan and introduced to the U.S. jewelry-making world in 1996 in a limited way, metal clay is now available in many forms and metals and from several manufacturers. Metal clay consists of tiny metal particles suspended in a clay-like, organic binder. You mold and fire it as you would a clay, but when this remarkable material is in the kiln, the binder burns off and the metal particles stick together–leaving behind the clay’s form but only the metal’s substance. Form a ring out of silver clay and fire it, and you have a silver ring, pure and simple.

Rich textures that once required many hours to produce by hand in jewelry made with metal sheet can now be worked into metal clay in moments. Patterns from found or natural objects can readily be transferred to your jewelry without expensive equipment. Components can be whipped into shape without specialized jewelers tools, then assembled without soldering.

Three Rocks by Hadar Jacobson

Metal Clay Jewelry Making: Expert Advice for Fixing 6 Metal Clay Mishaps from Holly Gage, Hadar Jacobson, Arlene Mornick & More

About 15 years after I first tried it, metal clay jewelry making still feels like magic to me. It can also be fragile, scientific, frustrating, confounding, joyous, bewildering, rewarding, and heartbreaking–especially when the kiln is not your friend and your metal clay masterpiece comes out looking like a fallen soufflé. But most of all, I…