I was pretty psyched when I first learned how to use Precious Metal Clay (a clay made of super fine particles of precious metal that gets fired in a kiln). In spite of how expensive it was, it seemed to offer a whole new world of jewelry making possibilities - with no material waste! After taking a class, buying a ton of PMC-specific studio gear, and a year of working with the silver version of the clay, I concluded that there was not a whole lot of use for it in my designs. For one thing, it's weak. I mean that the resulting metal is porous and breakable in a way that traditional silver is not. So if you have a relatively large design, especially one with any long/thin parts, they can easily be bent and broken apart. Another issue is that the clay rapidly dries out as you work with it, and once it's dried it can never be used in the same way a fresh blob just out of the package. You can reconstitute dried PMC with purified water, but it loses its original smoothness and remains somewhat grainy and even more difficult to work with. I had hoped that working with PMC would allow me to solder less often, but that didn't turn out to be the case either, because the clay is so weak that you have to solder on traditional silver for any loops, earring backs or wires, etcetera if you don't want them to fall apart. And did I mention how expensive PMC is? $55 for .9 ounces of wet clay that amounts to even less after firing…what all this boils down to is that it's too stressful for me to work with PMC as a primary medium in my jewelry studio. I'm still using the syringe version of PMC to set stones, and I like to tell myself that it was worth all the time and money I spent for that purpose alone. I guess I'd better set a lot of stones.
I balled up a small piece of PMC.
I tried to figure out how long to apply my hair dryer to give it just the right amount of cracky-ness.
Then I smushed it with a fingertip.
It's cracky, but not as much as I want.
I'm making it look easier than it really was. I had to re-roll them into balls and smush 'em with my finger repeatedly to get the look I wanted. And some of them dried out too much during the process and went back into the reconstituting pot.
These are ready to be fired in a PMC kiln.
That kiln costs over five hundred dollars. Dang it. It can be used for enameling as well, but I'm not much of an enameler.
When the dots came out of the kiln, I sanded the backs a bit in preparation for soldering earring backs onto them.
Rustic dots, earring backs and chips of silver solder in liquid flux before soldering.
I scratched a cross and poked a hole into my soldering block to help me align the silver pieces.
I put the earring back into the hole.
The cross hatches should help me center the dot on top of the earring post.
I put a chip of silver solder on the earring post and the dot.
Flowing solder on the post.
Something weird happened when I flowed the solder on the dot. It kind of melted down into the dot in some cases.
Oh well. I put the dot on top of the earring post and hoped I'd be able to tell when the solder flowed.
This one came out okay.
This one didn't. A pit formed where the solder was melted onto the PMC dot and the post didn't have anything to stick to. This is just another weird thing about PMC. That wouldn't happen with traditional silver materials.
Still, most of them worked out.
The shiny dot has been cleaned with a brass brush, the dull one not.
I sanded them a bit to take off any rough edges that could catch on clothing.
Cute. I wonder what else I could use these for...