The company that recycles the silver gets their silver from old silverware, as well as old x-rays and photographic negatives (so many stories are embedded in my jewelry!). They extract the pure silver particles and mix it with a plant-based organic binder and water, creating “metal clay,” which is the product I use to make my jewelry. Metal Clay was invented in Japan in the 1990s, so it is relatively new.
I made a short video explaining how I make my silver jewelry with metal clay. You can watch it here:
Metal clay feels and looks like clay, and I work it like clay. Often I make my own molds and press or roll the clay into them, or work freehand with the clay. Once it dries, I sand it so the edges are smooth, and add any embellishments. I then take the dry piece and fire it in a tabletop electric kiln, at 1650F for two hours. During this firing process, the organic binder burns off, the silver sinters, and I am left with pure silver. Kind of like magic!
Once it comes out of the kiln, I brush each piece with a brass brush to make the silver shine (the silver actually comes out of the kiln white, and brushing it flattens the particles, allowing the light to reflect evenly, thus making silver shine). I hammer some pieces, then put most of them in a tumbler to shine them even more. For many of my pieces, I also add a liver of sulfur patina, which turns the entire piece black (or in some cases, brilliant hues). Once the patina is on, I let the pieces sit in a baking soda bath to neutralize the patina and stop the color from changing. After about a half hour, I polish the patina off the raised surfaces with steel wool, leaving the recessed areas dark, and the raised areas shiny silver. This process makes the textures really come alive.
When the actual piece is complete, I add ear wires or chain, and solder any jump rings so that the piece is sturdy. I then give it a final polish and it's ready to be worn!
A finished necklace, hammered with patina. Deep Knowing Necklace.