Thrifty Metal Clay Jewelry Making: 8 Ways to Reduce, Reclaim, Recycle, and Reconstitute Metal Clay

Just like metal sheet and wire, metal clay prices can be a pain point for jewelry makers. So any time I find a way to save money and materials on metal clay (or any other) jewelry making supplies, I have to share! Here are eight tips from Sue Heaser on making the most of your metal clay. These apply to all types of metal clay–silver, copper, bronze, etc.

Reclaiming and Reconstituting Clay

Excerpt from Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers by Sue Heaser

Working in any material will always produce waste. With metal clay, this may be soft clay scraps, failed projects, or simply a piece that you dislike. This section details the many ways you can make best use of your metal clay with economical practices, recycling, reconstituting, and reclaiming.

mix metal clay with polymer clay like this metal clay jewelry by Barbara Sperling

Mixed Material Necklace, Barbara Sperling. Combining silver clay with other materials will make your clay go further. Here polymer clay images framed in silver clay are combined with polymer clay beads to make a luscious whole.

The price of precious metal has risen a great deal in recent years, and this has inevitably impacted on the price of metal clay, in particular the precious metal clays. The following tips can substantially reduce the amount of clay that you use.

Roll clay sheets thinly. For many projects, sheets of clay 2 p.c. (0.5 mm) thick will be as successful as thicker sheets. However, it is wise to work at about 4 p.c. (1 mm) thick when you are a beginner to reduce the chances of breaking your work in the plaster-dry stage. Work smaller. Large, chunky jewelry is great, but so are small and more delicate pieces.

stretch your metal clay jewelry by embellishing other materials like this cuff by Mary Ann Nelson

Cuff, Mary Ann Nelson. Silver clay textured with ammonites embellishes a faux bone cuff.

Use mixed media. Pieces do not have to be made entirely of silver; instead, try combining it with base metal clays, glass, textiles, wood, and other materials.

Use polymer clay. Choose polymer clay to back or infill pieces after firing so that the precious metal content is reduced.

Use hollow core or formers. To avoid working in solid metal, which uses up far more clay, use hollow core techniques or formers.

textured metal clay jewelry bead by Tracey Spurgin

Textured Bead, Tracey Spurgin. Making pieces with a hollow core uses less clay and makes jewelry lighter to wear.

Concave molding. When molding clay, press it into the mold to give a concave back.

Save and reconstitute. Save all your unfired clay scraps for reconstituting. This also applies to dried clay waste from filing or carving, but do not use dust from sanding, which may be contaminated by the grit.

Save and recycle. Save any unwanted fired silver for recycling into new pieces.


Design for economy. With the above points in mind, design your jewelry carefully, avoiding unnecessary thickness and using other materials for hidden parts, such as the back of a piece. –SH

learn to create metal clay jewelry specialty techniques like mokume gane, caning, inlay, and more

Sue’s book shares metal clay basics but also specialty techniques like mokume gane, caning, and inlay with metal clay, as well as how to make chain, lockets, rings, bangles, and more using metal clay.

In Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers, Sue continues with ways to reconstitute dried clay, recycle soft clay as well as fired silver, how to make metal clay paste and slip, and much, much more. Whether you’re new to metal clay jewelry making or have been using this magical material for awhile, you can learn more from a variety of experts in our Metal Clay Collection.

This special value collection is packed with 11 metal clay jewelry-making resources, including Sue’s book and a digital book, two DVDs and three video downloads, three digital magazines, and a project compilation eBook with 10 metal clay jewelry-making projects. You’ll learn expert metal clay jewelry-making tips, techniques, and information from experts including Sue, Noël Yovovich, Susan J. Lewis, Kate McKinnon, and more. Take advantage of this special value and spend the money you saved on metal clay!

P.S. For metal clay jewelry makers, nothing is more frustrating than dried-up metal clay. Fortunately, it’s easy to take dried metal clay back to a workable form. Head over to Sue’s step-by-step tutorial on how to reconstitute dried metal clay.

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