Call Toll Free: 1-888-478-5060
View Shopping Bag
Like Us on Facebook!

Archive for February, 2011

Feb
21

It’s no secret that the price of silver clay has been going through the roof in the last few years. Even jewelry artists new to metal clay have noticed the rapidly rising prices in the last several months and are asking, “What’s up with the price of silver clay?”

The answer is easy. Silver clay is getting more expensive because the price of silver is going up. Since fine silver is the main ingredient in all PMC and Art Clay silver products, any fluctuation in the silver market can make a big difference in the price of silver clay.

Mitsubishi Materials introduced silver clay in the United States in 1996. At that time silver was hovering around $5 an ounce. The price of silver clay was fixed in those days because silver prices were steady and had been for many years. The fixed price meant that no matter how the price of silver fluctuated in the market, silver clay prices were firm. You knew what you would pay and it did not change.

This silver honeymoon lasted all the way through 2003 while silver floated between $4 and $5 per ounce. But then, in 2004, the price of silver started to creep up. Every month a new high in price was set and by December, 2005, silver had closed as high as $9.23 per ounce, more than double what it was just a few months earlier.

The following April a new silver-backed ETF fund was introduced allowing investors to trade silver funds in the stock market, something that had never been done before, and rumors of the coming ETF had probably fueled the run-up in price that began the previous year.

In 2006, the year started out with silver at $8.79 per ounce. On the day the new Silver-backed ETF went on sale, it gained an astonishing 7%. Silver then closed out the year at $14.85 for an incredible one-year gain of almost 69%; an unheard of return on an investment of any kind.

At this point the price structure of silver clay was changed and silver clay began to float with the “spot” price of silver. That meant that when the spot price of silver went up, silver clay went right along with it, and it’s been that way ever since.

For example, a 50-gram package of PMC 3 clay nets a total of 50 grams of fine silver. 50 grams of fine silver equals 1.608 troy ounces*. At a spot price of 30.00, the silver value is $48.24. To give you some perspective, that same lump of silver clay had an average silver value of $8.04 from 1996 through 2003.

So what is the “spot” price? The silver “spot” is the daily price of silver. Because silver is a market commodity, the price changes each day. In London a group of 5 bankers sets or “fixes” the spot price for fine silver bullion and coins each morning.  The price set in London is called the “London Fix” price. In the US, a company called Handy & Harmon sets its own spot price called the “New York Spot”. In the US most dealers follow the New York spot.

Note: When looking at current prices or historical charts, be sure to notice whether the prices are London or New York. This information is usually noted in the title or footer. The two spot prices vary.

Since 2004 silver has continued its aggressive upward march in price and according to most pundits, it’s heading higher. Although I personally believe that silver-backed ETFs have played a large roll in the volatility of the spot market, it’s certainly not solely responsible.

Here are just a few reasons that have been argued as contributing to the rise in silver prices, and why silver is expected to continue moving upward:

  1. Silver supply is short of what it is contracted for. In other words, more people have notes that say they own silver than there is actually silver to cover those notes.
  2. Silver is being used in more products and industries than ever before, and the demand is forecast to continue increasing at a very fast clip.
  3. Silver is consumed in industry. Most of it is used in such small amounts that it is not recoverable. Consider that every electronic thing you own or use or have thrown out contains silver that will never be recovered.
  4. Silver is undervalued based on the historic gold/silver ratio.
  5. Silver has gained attention with its huge gains prompting many new buyers, setting the scene for a bubble.
  6. Depleted world stockpiles = less available physical silver.
  7. 75% of silver mined is a byproduct of base metal as base metal production declines, therefore less silver is being produced.
  8. Mining for silver is presently too costly to make a profit. More mines are closing than opening. (But this will soon change)
  9. Worldwide economy has driven investors to hold silver (and gold) as a store of wealth.
  10. Price manipulation. Bart Chilton, Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said, “I believe that there have been repeated attempts to influence prices in the silver markets.” Many others agree with him, so it warrants mentioning. Don’t believe it? On Jan 18, 1980 the price of silver hit an all time high of nearly $50 per ounce due to the attempt by Nelson and William Hunt to corner the market. (More on this in a later article.)

Lots of people have an opinion on where the price of silver will go in 2011. I’ve seen predictions as high as $65 per ounce and as low as $21, but most seem to think $35 is the number that we’ll settle at. There are some who argue that silver will be upwards of $100 per ounce. It sounds outlandish, but then so did $30 when silver was trading at $5. My personal prediction is that it will continue to move upwards in its currently volatile pattern. I would not be surprised to see it over $40 by the end of the year.

Even with a rising price, silver is still a great bargain as a jewelry making material. Whether you are working with silver in clay form or by traditional means, a rising silver price means more value to every piece of jewelry you make in silver (and everything in your current stock as well). And as the price goes higher, silver becomes more precious in the mind of the consumer. So a higher price means that more thought and care will go into the use of silver and silver clays.

Here are some ways of keeping the cost of silver down:

  1. Design your projects before opening your clay. Have a plan of action when the clay is open so you make just the components you need without allowing the clay to be exposed to the air.
  2. Incorporate sheet and wire into your projects. Everything doesn’t have to be made of silver clay. Fine silver sheet and wire is much less expensive and can be fused to the silver clay.
  3. Use thinner slabs. If you normally make slabs 6 cards thick for a pendant, make it 4 cards thick. The clay will go much further.
  4. Try making your item from the new PMC PRO alloy clay. This version is much stronger than fine silver clay. You can make shanks as thin as 2 cards thick and still maintain the strength needed.
  5. Try adding other metals to your creations. Use brass, copper, aluminum, titanium and other metals in sheet, wire, stampings and castings.
  6. Learn to saw, solder or form metal wire and sheet so you can incorporate more money saving techniques in your work.

For those who are feeling squeezed by the price of silver and are looking for less costly ways to work in silver clay, PMC PRO offers a very strong product that is 90% silver and can be used in much smaller quantities due to it’s strength. There is also a new and more reliable version of bronze clay called FASTfire BRONZclay that is very affordable. Copper clays are also much lower in price than silver, and copper clay can even be fired with a torch. And since base metal clays are ideally fired in a kiln, consider that a kiln can be had for less than the cost of 300 grams of silver clay.

Learn more about base metal clays in the Cool Tools Learning Center at www.cooltools.us

*Did you know? A troy ounce is not the same as ounces used for weighing food and other commodities. A troy ounce is a unit of measure reserved mainly for precious metals and gemstones. A “regular” ounce is what is used for dry measurements and is called an “avoirdupois” ounce. Isn’t that a beautiful word? Avoirdupois. It’s pronounced “av-wah-dew-pwah

Avoirdupois vs. Troy Ounces                          Avoirdupois vs. Troy Pounds

1 avoirdupois ounce = 28.35 grams                            1 troy pound = 12 troy ounces

1 troy ounce = 31.1 grams                                         1 avoirdupois pound = 16 avoirdupois ounces

Be sure you always weigh your metal clay with a scale that weighs in troy ounces for an accurate measurement of the silver weight.

Why Are Silver Clay Prices Going Up? © 2011 Mardel Rein / www.cooltools.us

Feb
18

Introducing our new expanded selection of Metal Design Stamps. Over 100 new stamps to design and impress in your metal clay and jewelry projects.

All of our Design Stamps (punches) are made from heat-treated tool grade steel and are a great way to add unique designs and impressions to your jewelry projects. Our new selection offers hundreds of designs, symbols, patterns, shapes, and emblems to choose from.

To work successfully with Design Stamps and punches, place the metal you want to stamp on a hardened steel bench block. The bench block must be on a firm flat surface. Do not use a sand bag or any other padding below. The bench block needs to rest directly on a flat hard surface. Hold the punch perfectly straight. Use a 16 oz utility hammer to hit the end of the stamp. Ideally the impression should be made with one blow so practice on copper until you’ve got it.

Find all the tools you need to inspire right here from Cool Tools.

Feb
10

Congratulations to Nancy Graves, our winner of the $200 Cool Tools Gift Certificate Contest!

In January, a survey was available which automatically entered survey takers into a random drawing to win a $200 Cool Tools Gift Certificate. We got an amazing response from our loyal customers and loved reading all the comments. Nancy is our lucky winner this month!

Nancy was excited to hear she had won for answering 5 easy questions and wrote us; “Thank you so very much for the $200 gift certificate. You have certainly made my day!!!! I am very excited about the gift certificate and I used it toward a purchase I made for more clay. Thank you sooooo much again!”

Nancy teaches three jewelry classes and two painting classes a week at Hill Institute in Florence, Ma. She has been married 44 years and has two children and five grandchildren. We hope Nancy will keep inspiring her students to create beautiful art and jewelry and are glad the Cool Tools Gift Certificate went to good use.

Nancy submitted photos of her work featuring a necklace she created with silver clay, a Texture Tile and a lavender teardrop CZ purchased from Cool Tools. The bottom photo is a picture of Nancy wearing earrings made from silver clay with an opal drop.

Here at Cool Tools, we are always interested in what you have to say. We take pride in offering the best products, selection and customer service and will continue rewarding our customers for their inspiration and participation in our community.

Keep an eye out for more surveys and more chances to win!

Feb
4

Introducing our all new selection of Stringing Materials for your unique metal clay and jewelry creations. Pendant Necklaces. Organza. Leather Cord. Coated Cable. Jewelry Wire. Neck Wire. Velvet Cord. Everything a jewelry artist needs.

Our all new Pendant Necklaces offer unique ways to display your custom jewelry elements. Find new braided, ringed, webbed and turn-around Pendant Necklaces featured in an array of colors. The Pendant Necklaces offer fast and easy ways to string your jewelry.

Organza offers beauty and class to the jewelry it’s added to. Our all new selection of Organza Ribbon is available is several colors and come in spools or assorted colored packs.

Leather Cord offers strength and durability when added to jewelry projects. Our new selection of Leather Cord features several new colors in assorted color packs with lobster clasps attached. Find Greek Leather Cord available in natural, black, and brown.

Coated Cable is fast and customizable for finishing your jewelry projects right. Our selection of Coated Cable comes in several assorted color packs and clear. Our Coated Cable can be sized to fit any jewelry piece and come with screw clasps.

Jewelry Wire features stringing material for any project. Find Jewelry Wire with 1-5 Strands linking to the clasp. Our Neck Wire, available in silver and gold, are perfect for sliders and create an instant fit to any jewelry element.

Velvet Cord offers the comfort of velvet with the versatility of other stringing materials. Our new Velvet Cords come with a silver base lobster clasp and chain extentions to fit any project.

Bring any jewelry making project together fast and easy with help from our new selection of Stringing Materials right here from Cool Tools.

Feb
3

For January, we have 2 winners for our Random Review Drawing. Each winner will receive a gorgeous lot of artist-made dichroic gems from the parcel shown below.

Our first winner, Jan from Paris, Tennessee reviewed the Paragon SC2 kiln she recently purchased. In her review she said, “This is an awesome kiln especially for a beginner like me. Couldn’t ask for anything to be easier.” She’s going to be really excited to get some great dichroic glass gems that she can use in that kiln!

Our second winner is Ziva from Chicago. Ziva uploaded this photo of the fabulous earrings she made with PMC 3.

Both ladies were automatically entered in our monthly drawing when they clicked the “Write a Review” link from a product on our website. Every month we give away something really cool to someone who reviewed a product, uploaded a photo, or shared a tip through our Product Review feature. It’s so nice to read about other people’s experiences with a tool or product before you buy, to see the things they’ve made, and pick up a new tip.

Below every products photo there is a “Write a Review” link. Click the link to submit. It only takes a minute and you could be the next Random Review Winner! Next months prize will be a generous lot of PMC fine silver clay.