I've been on the lookout for a silver jewellery course for ages - you used to have to do a lengthy silversmithing course for this, but not anymore. I attended a jewellery course using silver clay (or silver art clay), which is nearly pure silver held together with a binding material. It's made as a way to capture the silver dust that is created in manufacturing processes. It's really easy to work with, you can make endless shapes and designs, and when you burn off the binder you are left with 99.9% silver. Cool huh?
On the course we were given 5-6 grams of clay, which doesn't sound like a lot, but does go quite a long way. I made 5 charms for a bracelet, a necklace and some earrings. To make it easier to work with you need a tile, a rolling pin, a craft knife and any stamps or shapes you might want to cut out. Always keep the clay you are not using in the packaging to stop it drying out. You can keep what you don't use for the next shape, just add a little water if the clay dries out.
If you buy any silver clay it will probably come with better instructions than this, but here is the general process:
- Mould and shape your designs on the tile until you are happy with them, always remember to put a hole in the clay using a toothpick if you want to attach it to something later!
- Blow a hairdryer on the highest setting on the pieces, until they come free from the tile, be careful as they do fly about once they're loose.
- Once they are loose, turn down the hairdryer to the low setting and keep going until the pieces are dry, you can tell this by putting them on a mirror, if you see condensation they are not yet dry enough.
- Use baby wipes to smooth the edges.
- You "fire" this clay on gauze laid over a gas ring - place the silver clay where the gauze glows, where it is hottest, and time for two minutes, and immediately place into cold water.
- Rub the jewellery with metal wire or a metal brush to reveal the silver underneath - it's magic to see your design in clay now in beautiful silver.
Silver clay is not cheap, but you can buy cheaper versions in bronze or copper if you want to practice, or more expensive in gold if you prefer!