by Catherine Amo
If you enjoy crafts and want to create silver jewelry pieces, then you might consider trying silver clay. Silver clay is similar to other types of clay and pottery but contains small particles of silver, so it creates beautiful silver jewelry without all the equipment and know-how required for working with pure silver or sterling silver. In fact, once silver clay is fired, much of the water and other ingredients are burned off, and the item becomes .999 silver. Silver clay is a great way to take your jewelry and craft making to a whole new level.
Select a work surface. Laminate countertops and glass are the best surfaces to use when you're working with silver clay; but if you do not have laminate or glass work surfaces in your home, you can purchase a plastic mat or a Teflon sheet to use as your work surface. Avoid working with silver clay on metal surfaces, as this can cause discoloration in the clay. In addition to using the proper work surface, it is a good idea to apply a film of olive oil to your hands before you touch the clay. The oil will prevent the clay from sticking to your hands and also keep it from drying out. You can apply olive oil to your tools and work surface as well.
Cut and shape the clay. Use a craft knife to cut your clay to the desired size. Silver clay can be shaped into a variety of items. Popular choices include beads, necklace pendants, rings, bracelets and household decor items such as votives. Consider purchasing craft tools to create intricate clay jewelry.
Dry and clean the clay. Silver clay needs to be dried and cleaned before it can be fired. You can let the clay dry naturally; simply leave it out for a full 24 hours. You can also use a hair dryer to speed up the process. When using a hair dryer, it is important to test for dryness by pressing the clay to a piece of glass and checking for condensation. You may need to check the clay several times. Once dry, smooth your clay with a file or a piece of sandpaper. Finally, be sure to trace an outline of your clay on a piece of paper. This will help determine whether it has been fired properly later on.
Fire the clay. If you have access to a kiln, then you can use it to easily fire your silver clay pieces. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the silver clay to program the temperature and time for the kiln. If you do not have a kiln, then you can still fire your silver clay at home. Using a gas stove and a stainless steel mesh, you can fire your silver clay in your own kitchen. Simply set the mesh on a burner and turn the fire on. Once you have identified the reddest part of the mesh, turn the fire off. Place the clay on the reddest part of the mesh and turn the fire on again. Wait for the clay to turn orange from the heat and continue firing for five additional minutes before you turn the flame off. You can also use a butane torch to fire your clay. Place your clay on a firing brick and turn the torch on. Holding the torch two inches away from the clay at a 45 degree angle, move the flame over the clay evenly until it turns orange; then continue firing for five additional minutes.
Cool and clean the clay. After firing your clay, wait for it to cool for 20 minutes. Kiln-fired clay will be cooled automatically. Place the clay into a metal bowl filled with water for several minutes and then dry your silver clay and place it within your outline. The item should be smaller than the outline by at least 10 percent. If it is not, then it needs to be fired again.