The green movement is good. People are finally making an effort to live their lives in a cleaner, better way. From the smallest things like changing over to compact fluorescent bulbs to chucking the gas guzzler in favor of a hybrid, people are doing their part. And businesses are starting to jump on the wagon. Our world will be a better place for everyone because of this movement.
Of course, jewelry has always done its part to add a little beauty to our everyday lives. But it isn't often that a jewelry making material can actually make a difference in our world. There is an exciting new way to make fine silver jewelry. Pure – as good as it gets. And it is environmentally friendly.
Photographic film is manufactured with silver compounds. During photo processing, a substantial amount is recovered for recycling. Some of it is made into a new material called metal clay. There are two brands available – Art Clay and Precious Metal Clay or PMC, made by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation. A 22K gold clay is also available.
Finely powdered pure silver particles recovered from the photo developing process are mixed into a binder, forming a clay like material. This "clay" is quite heavy, and feels cool in the hand, similar to metal. It can be worked like any clay; it can be sculpted or used to build hollow forms; After it dries, it can be filed, cut or drilled before firing. It is truly an art jewelry designers dream material.
Once a piece is made from the clay and air dried, it is fired in a kiln – a furnace that reaches well over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The binder holding the metal particles burns, and the particles pull together in a process called sintering. The particles fuse, and when the object cools it is solid metal.
After it is cooled, jewelry made with PMC can be set with gemstones, it can be joined with other parts by soldering, it can be enameled – anything that can be done to any other precious metal object can be done with metal clay jewelry.
Jewelry artisans have embraced PMC as a wonderful new medium that allows individual expression. PMC pieces have been winning awards and competitions. The designs are as varied as the artists that create them. One day, you'll see a piece and say "That is gorgeous …" and find it was made from PMC. Its a great way to use all that recycled silver – it makes our world a cleaner and more beautiful place to live.