Make Real Silver Jewelry with Metal Clay!

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Since I’ve been doing art and craft projects since I was a kid with my art teacher Mom, there aren’t that many areas I’ve never dabbled in at all, but this project was a totally new challenge for me. Emma mentioned that she had learned about this clay that you shape and dry, and once it’s fired, it turns into pure silver!

It sounded crazy, but the more we looked into it, we realized it was true. The clay is made of silver particles, organic binders, and water, so when you fire the piece, the organic binders and the water burn off, and you are left with a piece that is 99.9% pure silver. Awesome!

The other great thing about this clay is that if you’ve heard anything about metal clay before, you may have thought that you had to have a kiln to work with the material, but you actually don’t need one. T

hey make metal clay that has a low enough firing point that you can actually just use a butane torch (the same thing you would make creme brûlée with) to fire the piece instead. As long as the piece is smaller than a silver dollar in size, you can use the torch and that change makes the project much more accessible.  

I love the idea of making jewelry with a fingerprint of someone you love, and having a husband that travels a lot makes the idea extra special to me. I thought I could make two fingerprint necklaces (one with his print and one with mine) so it’s like having a piece of each other near our hearts on a daily basis. Love it!

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
Art Clay Silver 650 (low fire)
polishing papers
-small piece of plexiglass (check your local home improvement store)
-card stock paper or playing cards
acrylic roller
-small circle cookie cutter slightly bigger than the size pendant you want (I used the smallest circle in this pack. It’s a little less than 1″ wide)*
firing block
-small butane torch
wire brush
-fine grade sandpaper
-small spray bottle for water
-plastic clay knives
agate burnisher (optional)

They also make these Art Clay starter kits that come with a bunch of the above items, so it may be a better deal to get a kit depending on what you need. 

*The clay will shrink 8-10% once it’s fired, so pick a circle that’s a bit bigger than the size you’re going for.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) First you’ll want to set up your station to roll out the clay. Metal clay starts to dry as soon as you expose it to air, so get everything ready to go before you take it out of the package. You can use pieces of card stock or playing cards stacked next to each other with about 1 1/2″ in between them to keep the thickness of your piece consistent. I used 4 pieces of card stock on each side, and I would suggest a thickness of 4-5 cards for this project.

Secure your cards to the plexiglass with a few pieces of tape and unwrap your metal clay. You can coat your fingers in a very thin layer of olive oil so the clay doesn’t stick to your fingers, but the clay does wash off hands easily. Place your clay on the plexiglass between the card stacks and use your acrylic roller to roll out the clay the thickness of the cards. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Once rolled out, take your thumb and press it into the clay starting on the left side of your thumb and roll your thumb to the right (like if you were making a fingerprint with ink). You want to press hard enough to get a good impression of your thumb, but not so hard that you smooch all the clay to one side or the other.

If you think you pressed too hard or too light, simply scrape up the clay with a clay knife, knead it gently, roll it out, and try it again. If the clay starts to dry before you get a good print, lightly mist the clay with water from a spray bottle and it should knead back into a soft state.

I did notice that no matter how hard I pressed, I could never get quite the definition of Todd’s fingerprint, so maybe he’s just way stronger than I am (totally true) or he has more defined fingerprint lines.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Once you have a good thumbprint, place your circle cookie cutter over the part of the print you want to become your pendant and press down.

Keeping the cutter in place, use a clay knife to scoop up the rest of the clay around the cutter and place that clay immediately into plastic wrap and then into a plastic bag with a damp paper towel at the bottom for storage. Keep the bag in a dry, dark place, and it should stay good until you want to use it again.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Remove the circle cutter and use a toothpick or a small straw to make a hole for your jump ring once the piece is finished. Allow the clay to fully air dry for 24 hours.

Once the clay is completely dry, you should be able to pick up your piece and sand down any edges that are uneven or sticking up with a fine grit sandpaper (like a 220 grit) or the fine side of an emery board. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) In a dimly lit room, place your piece on the firing block and use your butane torch to fire your clay (obviously this photo above is not a dimly lit room, but I wanted to show you the angle and proximity of the torch to the clay). You’ll want to hold your torch about 2″ away from the clay at a 45° angle and move the torch around the clay in a constant motion to heat the piece evenly (don’t settle the heat on any one spot for too long).

At first, you may not see anything happen, but keep going and the piece should begin to smoke a bit or even catch on fire. Don’t worry, that just means the organic binders are beginning to burn off. Keep moving the flame around the piece until you see the piece begin to glow a peach color. This is why you want to fire the piece in a dim room if possible as it’s easier to see the peach glow in a dim space.

Once you see the peach color, you’ll want to keep time of how long you continue to fire while you adjust the proximity of the flame to maintain the peach glow. A weight of 5 grams only requires 1-1.5 minutes and 6-15 grams needs 1.5-2 minutes, but since I didn’t know the exact weight of my piece (and you can’t really fire it too long), I kept the peach glow for at least 2 minutes just to be safe.

Once time is up, turn the torch off and allow the piece to completely cool. The piece should be coated in a white layer at this point.

(If you’re like me and you want to have a visual walkthrough of the firing process, this is a great video to see what it should look like as it’s happening.)

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Drop the cooled piece in water and use the wire brush to brush off the white outer layer. Dry with a cloth. Then use the polishing cloths to polish your piece (starting with the coarsest and working down to the finest). Dip the polishing cloth in water and polish in one direction only (like only in strokes from left to right).

To get a mirror shine, rub an agate burnisher all over the piece for an extra professional look. If you want to add a dark patina to your piece to highlight the sunken lines of the fingerprint, you can use a bath of liver of sulfur before you polish the piece.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) At first I was skeptical about this process because it seemed so technical, but now that I’ve done it a few times, I’m totally obsessed! Also, the process is a lot more forgiving than I thought it would be, so I was happy that I didn’t have to feel stressed to do everything totally perfect.

It’s so special to have matching necklaces with each other’s prints, and I know for sure that I will be wearing this necklace a ton when he’s gone. You can do this process on a bigger or smaller scale and make charms or key chain pendant gifts with meaningful fingerprints.

Of course, I love making jewelry and learning new crafting skills regardless of the sentimental level, but when it’s a project that also pulls a bit at your heartstrings, well, that makes it extra special if you ask me…xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Laura Gummerman, Todd Gummerman, and Elsie Larson.

  • Love this idea. I have worked w/ silver clay before and obsessed over polishing it perfectly. But the fingerprints look fabulous.
    Thanks so much

  • Wow Great idea !! Such a beautiful Pendant thanks for sharing this idea with us… Am waiting for more.

  • I’m so happy to find this article!!
    My pup will be leaving for the rainbow bridge in a couple of weeks and I was going to pay a lot of money to get a paw impression made of him. Now I’m just going to make it myself and always have this as a memorial.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!
    I now have tears of joy instead of sorrow for a change.

  • Although I have done some projects based on clay I have never heard of this variety. I am so glad I stumbled over this post. Lots of ideas already came into my mind. Thank you!

  • love this such a sweet idea! I’m in a long distance relationship so sentimental gifts like this are really important to us xx
    www.emilyjanewebb.co.uk

  • Hi Eva! They are DIY: https://abeautifulmess.com/2014/11/marbled-clay-ring-dish.html 🙂 -Jacki

  • hey,
    This is a nice idea! It’s working easily to make real silver jewelry with metal clay for fingerprint jewelry. Your jewelry collection is very good and beautiful. Thank for sharing.

  • Kind of morbid but i thought i would share anyway… a friend of mine is a mortician and she said it is (or was, can’t remember) common practice for people to make jewelry like this with the fingerprints of their loved ones when they die. creepy!

  • I love knowing this exists! Thank you so much for letting us know more about how the clay works!

  • It looks like a solid silver circle on the backside (just without a fingerprint though). Heating the piece will fire the whole thing at once, so you only have to aim the heat at one side. I just said to lay it fingerprint side face down while you fire it in case you overheat a spot. I’d rather have a spot that got a little melted on the back rather than the front, but I didn’t run into the problem anyways 🙂

    Laura

  • Hi! Love this! What does the charm look like on the backside (silver or clay couloured?)? Am I supposed to burn it on both sides, or just the one with the fingerprint? Thanks, Susanne

  • You can also set certain gemstones into metal clay i.e. Diamonds, sapphires, spinels etc. Some stones are too fragile and will break during the heating process such as tourmaline, apatite etc.

    I love the idea of using rough diamonds in a piece like this in keeping with the raw / organic look of the necklace 🙂 Next metal clay project perhaps?

    Great DIY once again! You guys are the best!

    xo Rebecca
    Gempalace.etsy.com

  • I’ve never heard of this clay before, I hope I’ll find it – this idea is too sweet!

  • It is a DIY! You can make one here:
    https://abeautifulmess.com/2014/11/marbled-clay-ring-dish.html

    Laura 🙂

  • The link in the supply list shows you can buy 10 grams of it for 24$ and it takes about 5-7 grams per charm, so it’s really not that bad!

    Laura 🙂

  • This is a fantastic idea! I’m thinking I’ll do one with maybe a mixed fingerprint (my sister, myself and my niece) for a necklace for my mom for Mother’s Day. Or maybe just my niece, if it looks too messy with all 3.

  • This DIY idea goes beyond crafty!! Kudos!! It looks so Dainty and Chic!!

    www.daintyandchic.com

  • This DIY idea goes beyond crafty!! Kudos!! It looks so Dainty and Chic!!

    www.daintyandchic.com

  • This is a bit expensive for something that I would consider as an everyday DIY, but it’s such a lovely keepsake and I think would be a really beautiful and personal anniversary gift or something like that. It looks a bit technical but also easier than I thought it would be!

    x Kathryn
    Through the Thicket

  • This is soo cool! I love it! You guys are such craft-trendsetters! Like seriously – burning clay to make silver jewellery…you guys rock! I also love that marbled dish with the gold rim though! Is that a DIY as well, or can I buy it somewhere? I’d love to know!

    Big hugs to you talented bunch from Joi

    Joiful

  • Fantastic:-)
    I once had my daughters photo transferred to a plate and she is carrying it as a necklace….

  • This looks like so much fun! Have to get this. Would make such a nice gift for someone. I’d love to secretly make a fingerprint one of my sister’s 3 week old baby and give it to my sister later for Christmas or something!

  • This is a great project, I love the fingerprint idea!! 🙂
    Keep up the amazing work!
    XOXO,
    Isabella

  • I keep getting side tracked in these posts with your amazing polish color. What is it? Thanks!

  • I never knew a thing like silver clay existed, and then fact that you can finish it with a butane torch is really neat. Love the fingerprint idea – great for you and the husband 🙂

    Monica – Mocha and Moccasins

  • Wow – I’ve didn’t know this existed! Very cool!

    I think fingerprints show up better if you’re more hydrated. I don’t remember when/where I learned that – but perhaps that has something to do with why your husbands showed up better than yours??

  • Such a cute idea! It’d be really cute to make these a little smaller, and turn them into super simple drop earrings. So fun!

  • This is so great! But please take down/blur the photos of your fingerprints! These are too easy to copy and perform a quick identity theft with!

  • These are so neat! Great idea!

    http://arnellavanilla.com/category/home/

  • I haven’t made many projects from ABM, but I am definitely doing this one. Thanks for the awesome idea.

  • Wow! This is admittedly very cool. I’d never heard of metal clay before this post. Thanks for sharing.
    Http://absolutelytara.com

  • Great idea. This would make a wonderful present. That little marble dish is precious too.

    www.getchaglowon.com

    • So this maybe a dumb question, how does it become Sterling silver? I’ve never done this before but I would LOVE to try.

  • Wow! I’ve never heard of such a thing! I only wear silver jewelry and it would be so nice to have something homemade like this. I’ve always been intrigued yet intimidated by making my own silver items.

    http://ohthethingsshedoes.blogspot.com/

  • That is such a wonderful idea! Even though I think I would be terrible if I ever tried it… But thank you for the idea! With love,
    Vera

    http://theflashwindow.weebly.com/

  • Really cool! I saw something similar to this on TV recently and they made it seem over complicated and something not everyone could do. That’s what I love about this blog, you do things that normal people could be intimidated to do before
    Emily x

  • this is so lovely! such a simple idea and would be great for christmas or something for a necklack for everyone! lovely

  • Love this idea. I have worked w/ silver clay before and obsessed over polishing it perfectly. But the fingerprints look fabulous.
    Thanks so much

    http:truehappinessdesigns.wordpress.com

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