Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Precious Metal Clay?

An image of a stunning necklace followed by the caption "created with precious metal clay", set me on a path of exploration.  Precious metal clay? What is that? As a girl that grew up loving Play-Doh, then Model Magic as an adult,  I had to learn more.

Precious metal clay is a substance developed by Mitsubishi Materials of Japan in 1990.  PMC is microscopic silver or gold particles combined with water in an organic binder to form a material with qualities similar to modeling clay.  As with other soft clays, metal clay can be sculpted using hands or simple tools, shaped, molded, and given texture.

After a precious metal clay creation has air-dried, it is fired in a kiln or with a hand-held torch.  This burns away the binder leaving only the pure metal.  Depending on the type of metal clay used, some shrinkage will occur. 

Sounds amazing, right? A couple of things before you run out and buy it:

 * It is not cheap.  A 16 gram package (this is just over half an ounce) of silver PMC is around $37 and can fluctuate with the silver market.  As expected, gold metal clay is significantly higher.  Copper and Bronze metal clays are lower cost alternatives.


* It dries out very quickly.  You'll want to know what to expect and plan your design before opening the package.

I highly recommend enrolling in a beginner course before purchasing any materials.  I found a local certified instructor with whom I spent a Saturday; happily learning the basics.  A one-time class cost me around $75.  This included instruction time and all materials.  I left the workshop with my own necklace and a head full of ideas...that I am still building on.

Visit this gallery for a slideshow of designs by PMC artisans.  Fascinated? Search for a local class.

If you are already familiar with pmc, Cool Tools is a great resource.  The site includes an online learning center with videos, guides, and projects for beginners and beyond.  Cool Tools also offers the most competitive pricing I have found when  purchasing precious metal clay. 


  1. Melissa - Happy to help! PMC is an extremely versatile and fun crafting medium. Enjoy!