By: Slavomíra Habardová
Art Clay Silver (ACS) is an exceptional material originating in Japan. The basic component of the "clay" is silver dust mixed with an organic binder. After creating (1) the desired shape of a jewel, the clay must be thoroughly dried (2). This is followed by the grinding phase (3) and the almost final finishing of the final shape. When we are happy with the piece, we can fire the jewel (4). Special kilns or gas torches are used for firing. When fired, the organic binder burns and the piece is transformed into silver jewel with a purity of 99.9%, i.e. into fine silver. The shape does not change at all. There is only a reduction in volume by 6-8%. The fired piece needs polishing (5), and if desired patina can be applied (6).
Art Clay Silver, which I work with, is produced from silver waste generated mainly in the photographic and electrical engineering industries. The jewellery made of it is very environmentally friendly. We do not create waste, but we give the precious metal a new and more beautiful life.
Art Clay Silver (ACS) is sold in few types:
Clay Type is the form that is used for most projects. To some extent, it resembles the self-hardening clays commonly available in creative stores. It is the most widely used ACS type.
Syringe Type is a softer clay version delivered in a syringe as application tool. It is used for repairing cracks, joining parts made of silver clay or for creating decorative elements and ornaments or hollow forms. Tips of different thicknesses need to be attached to the syringe according to the purpose of use.
Paste Type is silver clay "diluted" to such a consistency that can be well applied by brush. It can fill cracks, decorate creations and join parts. It can also be used to transform real leaves to silver (see the tutorial).
Paper Type in form of a sheet of paper is the last of the four basic types. It can be used to create miniature silver origami or other folded shapes. However, this type must be fired in a kiln.
Metal Clay Jewellery
There are several brands on the market offering various metal clays (copper, bronze, silver, gold). The purity of each metal is indicated by manufacturers on the packaging. For me, it is most comfortable to work with silver clay resulting in a purity of 999/1000. This means that the resulting fired metal contains 99.9% of silver, i.e. it is fine.
ACS is such a creatively pleasing material that anyone can use it. I therefore invite you to silver clay workshops, where you will create your own original jewellery. You do not need prior knowledge nor jeweller's education.
You can view and order a workshop here.
Fine versus "common" silver
Silver jewellery commonly offered on the market is made of silver sheet metal or wire with a purity of 925/1000, which means it contains 92.5% of silver, known as sterling silver. The rest is usually copper due to price and hardness. However, fine silver jewellery is only slightly softer. An average user doesn't even notice it. The visual difference is more pronounced. Fine silver is "more" silver and brighter.
Finimi jewellery is usually made of fine silver as the main material with elements or components of sterling (925/1000) silver. The opprotunity to combine silver clay and classic goldsmith' techniques is an amazing benefit and challenge for me.
In Slovakia, where I live, every jeweller working with precious metals follows the relevant legislation. According to it, it is necessary to have every piece of jewellery exceeding given weight (according to the type of metal) inspected at the Assay Office of Slovak Republic. The Office verifies the purity of the metal and marks the jewel with a state assay. This is also the quality proof of jewellery made of silver clay.