I’m a silver jeweller who loves nature. I make silver metal clay jewellery. It’s just one of the techniques that I use to create my originals. Nature is my source book and I love taking natural textures and seeing what I can do with them. That can be bark on a tree, the ridges of a shell or the veins of a leaf. Nature has so many wonderful patterns and textures. You too can capture and preserve them forever if you make silver metal clay jewellery.
Silver metal clay is such a versatile medium. It lends itself to being moulded, stretched and wrapped, as I have done here. The band of this delicate shell ring was made by wrapping a piece of silver metal clay around a spiral shell, which I found on the beach in Wales. It’s not the usual way to make silver metal clay jewellery. But, as a silversmith and a creative individual, I’m always looking to break out of the norm and experiment to find new ways of doing things.
Make a silver metal clay ring
Make silver metal clay jewellery that’s unique
I like to treat silver metal clay just as I would if I was a ceramicist and clay artist. Although it’s rather more expensive to use, some of the ways that you can mould silver metal clay, and join it, are similar. You will need to remember that silver metal clay doesn’t like being handled. It’s the heat from your hands that will dry it out too quickly. Try to get into the habit of using tools to handle it and always cover it with a moist wipe to stop it drying out in between each step.
Making jewellery this way, using the natural textures found in nature, means you can make something that’s truly unique. No one will ever have the same ring, or piece of jewellery. Nature jewellery is a lovely reminder of seasons past and places visited. The decoration can be as intricate and detailed, or as plain as you wish.
Working ‘small’ means the process can be fiddly so you will need to practise, have worked with silver metal clay before and also have oodles of patience. Having said that, if you’re creative like me, you might just throw yourself in and see how you get on. That’s absolutely fine too.
Make a silver metal clay ring
Using a small piece of silver metal clay, roll it into a sausage shape using a flat acrylic block. Once the shape looks about the right length for your ring, press it flat to create the ring band.
By pressing the silver metal clay around the sides of this shell, the clay has picked up the texture of the grooves and ridges. If you have a silver metal clay cutter blade, (a semi-circular metal cutter) you can easily trim the long sides so you are left with a fairly neat, long, rectangular shape. Make sure it’s longer than you need. With these tiny rings, I left the band to dry for a short while in order to set the texture, before shaping around a mandril and joining the ends with metal clay slip.
Shaping the ring to size
Taking the naturally textured strip of silver metal clay, I’ve trimmed the length to allow for 10% shrinkage. The shrinkage happens during firing and it can be slightly more than 10%, or slightly less. For that reason, I don’t guarantee the ring size until it’s fired and finished.
I’ve attached the ends together by painting them very gently using a slip made of a tiny piece of metal clay and water. It’s best to use a small moulding tool or paint brush to do this and press them gently together. Also, iIt’s a good idea to tidy up the join now using the paint brush. You can do more finishing with a damp wipe once the silver metal clay has dried.
Creating a professional finish
When the band was dry, I used a moist wipe to smooth out any tiny lumps or bumps along the inside of the join. Of course, taking care not to remove the natural texture on the outside of the ring. Any finishing is a delicate process so just take your time. Carefully smooth away any dinks and dents along the edges of the silver metal clay ring. The more you can do now whilst the silver metal clay is soft but dry, the better and more professional the finish.
Make tiny, decorative flowers, leaves and shells
Making the silver metal clay decorations, the flowers, leaves and shells, takes time. These are just a few millimetres wide so you do need a steady hand. These were made using a few of my tools, shells, in fact anything with some texture. I rolled tiny balls of silver metal clay and pressed anything with texture into the ball to create these tiny decorations. I made a lot more than I needed and I left them to dry before arranging them, and adding them to the ring.
The best way to position the tiny flowers, leaves and shells is using a pair of fine tweezers. When you’re happy with the position, you can attach them with silver metal clay slip. Adding decorations is fun but again, it’s very fiddly. Magnifying specs are a must!
I’m still experimenting with making rings, and combining my silversmithing skills with those of a silver metal clay artist. With this ring, I’ve purposely kept the organic, uneven band because I feel that by sanding the inside and the edges of the ring to be perfectly smooth, I’ll loose the essence and authenticity of the natural piece.
That’s the beauty of making a piece of silver metal clay jewellery yourself. Be inspired by nature, see where your creative skills will take you and hopefully, you finish with a beautiful, unique piece that you’re proud of.
5 top tips to success
1. You can get hold of a starter pack from Metal Clay, which includes everything you need to get started.
2. Practice the techniques using copper metal clay. It’s much cheaper to use. Or, just Fimo clay, although it doesn’t dry out in the same way as metal clay does.
3. Using an old paintbrush, rub a little oil over your cutting mat and tools. That will avoid the silver metal clay sticking when you’re rolling and shaping it.
4. To find out how long the band needs to be for your ring, simply wrap a piece of paper around you ring finger (whichever one you’d like your ring on) and add 10%. Cut this out of a piece of stiff card so you can use it over and over again.
5. If you’re doing any finishing with a moist cloth and find that the clay is starting to get sticky, it’s best to stop. Simply leave the piece to dry and then carry on.