Metal clay (aka powdered metallurgy) is a medium consisting of very small particles of metal mixed with an organic cellulose binder (think potato starch) and water for use in making jewelry, beads and small sculptures. Originating in Japan in 1990, metal clay can be shaped just like any soft clay, hand sculpting, use of texture plates, carving, extruding, molds and also painting with liquified clay. After drying, the clay can be fired in a variety of ways such as in a kiln and with a handheld gas torch, depending on the type of clay and the metal in it. The binder burns away, leaving the pure sintered metal. Metal clays have a shrinkage of between 8% and 30% (depending on the product used). Sintering as a process has been around since the mid 1800's. In layman's terms: All the molecules get happy and hold hands. Fine silver (.999 pure) was the first metal clay available. It was a recycled product using silver reclaimed from X-rays and film negatives. Later 22k gold clay was added. In 2008 bronze clay was introduced. It was developed by a retired chemist, Bill Struve. A year later his copper clay came to market. These base metal clays had to be fired in activated charcoal to create an oxygen depleting environment. Since then the manufacturing of metal clays has exploded all over the globe. Metals such as steel clay, white copper, white bronze, bronzes of different colors (such as goldy bronze) and sterling silver have been developed.
What is Metal Clay?