- Arts and Design
Green Conscious Jewelry
Eco Friendly Jewelry
It might surprise you to know that you can make, buy or own jewelry made from material that is considered environmentally friendly. You might also not realize that the jewelry that results from this material is superior in its silver content than anything you can purchase at a jewelry store.
The material I am talking about is metal clay. There are two types of metal clay that are manufactured from recycled products, Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay.
The products that have been recycled or reclaimed consist of scrap jewelry, cell phones, computers, monitors, recycled metals, electronics, x-rays, photographic film and industrial materials.
If you are considering making jewelry, buying it or giving it as a gift, think about creating or purchasing something that not only won't hurt the environment but can also help protect it.
Think of metal clay for your Jewelry creations and purchases.
How it all Began
From Car Manufacturing to Jewelry Design
Here is another shocker for you. The idea and much of the material from which metal clay is created has its origins in the Japanese automobile industry.
It began in the 1990s when a representative from Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, a division of Mitsubishi Motors, developed a clay-like material with a strong silver content that could be used for creating jewelry. Why anyone would even think of that is a good question.
The Japanese love working with clay to make beautiful works of art. Why not create jewelry by combining precious metals with a clay material that would allow jewelry designers to work the finished product in a similar way as pottery?
It worked beautifully in Japan, but would the material find American jewelry designers who would appreciate this new product for the uniqueness and versatility it allows? Would Americans buy jewelry made from clay?
Precious Metal Clay comes to America
Mitsubishi was put in contact with Tim McCreight, an American jewelry designer and teacher. But nothing is that easy. It takes a village. In this case lots of advisers and a long weekend in Maine.
McCreight, along with fifteen craft professionals, met in Deer Isle, Maine at the Haystack Mountain School to put their heads together to find the best way to utilize metal clay in America.
The year was 1995 and it was the beginning of a long and tedious path of discovery, trial and error and numerous mutations of the product before a satisfactory material could be produced that would satisfy American jewelry designers.
What Did They Discover
To say they learned that metal clay could be used to make jewelry is an oversimplification. What they discovered is they could create uniquely different high quality metal jewelry that could not be duplicated using traditional metalsmithing techniques.
PMC can be manipulated, twisted, cut, textured and colored without any of the effort or loss of material that can occur with traditional methods of creating jewelry
All left over material, even shavings, can be put back into an airtight container and used again. Even after it dries out, metal clay can be reconstituted with the simple addition of water.
Best of all PMC can be fired with stones (with some exceptions), glass and ceramics mixed in.
PMC accepts enamel beautifully and intricate textures that you would never be able to create any other way.
A Video is Worth a Thousand Words - Watch the Miracle of Metal Clay
Seeing is believing, so I am providing a video of Sherri Haab, a renowned PMC artist, discussing precious metal clay.
Remember the product is eco- friendly.
Silver PMC results in a Fine Silver product that is 99.9% pure silver. Jewelry stores sell sterling silver which is 92.5% silver.
Just like any other silver jewelry, if you create a piece of jewelry you do not like or it has defects that make you unhappy, send it to a company that will recycle it. You will receive about 75-80% of the market value for silver based on the weight of the materials you send.
You are helping the environment, while creating jewelry made from a unique eco-friendly product.
An Adjunct to Traditional Jewelry Methods
Metal clays come in a variety of materials, including fine silver, copper, bronze and sterling silver. I use only the fine silver clay, but there are endless options for those who want to create jewelry using other metals.
Metal clays can be fired using a standard torch, the ones found in hardware stores, or in a kiln.
Metal clays are meant to be an adjunct not a substitution for traditional methods of creating metal jewelry, but remember they are an eco-friendly adjunct, made from reclaimed and/or recycled products.
Anyone can make simple metal clay jewelry, but for the more complicated configurations and designs you should be a certified metal clay artist or at least study under a qualified metal clay instructor.
There are so many techniques that would be hard to create without instruction. Books and videos are a tremendous help, but there is nothing like hands on instruction.
I am certified and have studied with numerous experienced metal clay instructors. I find it fun, challenging and a method of creating jewelry with infinite possibilities. Every time I look at something that strikes me in the environment, I know I can recreate it in some manner using metal clay.
I have an Etsy shop where you can see some of my designs both in metal clay and traditional metalsmithing.
Getting Started - We All Need Help
These are great books for getting started creating your jewelry out of eco friendly metal clay. You will be rewarded with great satisfaction, not only in the intricate designs you can create, but knowing that your jewelry is in no way hurting the environment. Be creative, daring and proud of each piece that you make.
Enjoy your new craft.
I'd love to hear from those who have used metal clay. Which metal clay you have used and how you like working with it. I would also like to hear your thoughts on this product.