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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


Even though I’ve pioneered co-firing diamonds in metal clay, I was not sure my big diamond would succeed because it was not the best quality stone.

The color was G (which doesn’t really matter), but the clarity was I1, which means that there were inclusions that are easily visible with the unaided eye. It had a carbon crystal (black speck) and a ton of feather inclusions (cracks). I didn’t know if the stone would fracture completely or if the carbon crystal would blow up or what the heck might happen.  The fact is, in the world of diamonds it was a crappy stone and a big risk to fire. 

Diamonds are harder than any other gemstone* and only a diamond can scratch a diamond, but firing tests that were done years ago revealed that they have a habit of vaporizing  or crazing when heated in a kiln. That may seem odd, but as a classically trained jeweler I know that diamonds can be heated directly with a torch for a few seconds without damaging them. What they can’t take is a long heating. So to me, putting a diamond in the kiln for the 30-minute burnout cycle would be insane.

In order to fire the diamond safely, I had to skip the burn-out firing, which I don’t think is necessary anyway. I ignited the greenware with a flame, allowed it to burn away, cooled it, and then fired in activated carbon for 2 hours.  The stone was totally undamaged, but it shifted in the setting during firing and is a little cattywompus, which is no big deal for me to fix. What I was concerned with was if a low quality stone would survive. And the answer is yes. My stone was unharmed.

Tips for Strong Jewelry in PMC STERLING

One of the things I’ve learned about PMC STERLING is the same thing I know about all the other types of metal clay, the longer it’s fired, the more dense and the stronger it is.

For items where strength is not an issue, fire for the least amount of time. 1 hour is sufficient for most earrings and necklaces. For rings, bracelets and delicate items (things with fine parts and tendrils), fire for 2 hours and you’ll have amazingly strong jewelry….just like cast sterling.

Even in an unfired greenware state, PMC STERLING is super strong. To make the prongs for the diamond ring I cut out a tiny ring of clay, cut the ring in quarters and let it dry. To place the prongs, I picked each one up with diamond tweezers and dipped one end in water and then held it in place for a few seconds on the ring. I guess I held one prong too tight and it broke in half. I was in a time crunch so I just put a tiny bit of water on the pieces and held those together. I can’t tell which prong I repaired, and I’ve hammered on all of them.

What is important when firing PMC STERLING is using a reliable kiln with a temperature that can be held accurately for the duration. PMC STERLING is sintered at a temperature that is just a few degrees away from its melting point. If you try to use a tiny kiln that does not have a digital controller, you cannot be sure that your work is properly sintered or melt your work by going over temperature. The Ultra-Lite Beehive kiln, the Amaco Trinkit kiln and other tiny kilns with pyrometers for temperature control are not appropriate for PMC STERLING firing. You must be able to accurately gauge the temperature for the duration of the firing.

Recommended kilns: Any of the kilns we offer with a digital controller are perfect for PMC STERLING firing such as the Paragon SC series, Caldera, Digital Firefly, Home Artist and E Series kilns. The Evenheat Kingpin 88 series and Olympic Jewelry Artist are also great choices. You’ll also need a firing vessel and activated carbon to contain your work during firing. Click here to learn more about kilns.

*Diamonds are no longer the hardest substance known to man. There are man-made nanoparticles that are harder than diamonds, but some years ago 2 substances, wurtzite boron nitride and the mineral londaleite were discovered that can handle 18% and 58% more stress respectively than a diamond.



I’m still all aglow in the excitement of working with PMC STERLING. To me, this is the holy grail of jewelry clays. It’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, easy to fire, strong and most importantly, I’m working directly in a metal that is desirable all over the world.

According to the insert for PMC STERLING, a double firing is required to transform it from powdered to solid metal. The first firing is supposed to be on an open kiln shelf for 30 minutes at 1000F and then another 30 minute firing at 1500F buried in carbon. Since I’m lazy and since the open air firing sounded too slow, I decided to speed it up.

Skip the First Firing

I found that I can ignite the binder with a torch and skip the entire first firing, saving both time and energy. Here’s how I do it: Turn the lights down. Make a soft, bushy flame with the torch and light the greenware on fire. Watch as the flame eats through the whole piece. If you can’t tell if it’s all burned out, light it again. Then cool and embed in coconut carbon and fire at 1500F for at least 30 minutes.

Here are some more tips for working with PMC STERLING.

Co-Firing Findings & Settings

Any item of sterling silver, as long as it does not contain solder can be embedded and fired in place. If something has solder, it could fall apart or be seriously weakened during firing. Wire, laser-welded and die-struck settings can safely be fired in place. I highly recommend torch burnout if you plan to co-fire sterling silver parts to avoid heating copper in the open air. When copper is heated above 1200F for more than 30 minutes, it becomes incredibly brittle. Heating to 1000F is going to cause deep fire scale that can be avoided by not heating unprotected for so long. And though it might not be 1200F, it’s still going to weaken the metal, and that’s unacceptable for jewelry. Carbon firing, on the other hand, protects sterling silver from the combined damage of heat and oxygen.

Using Paste as Solder

PMC STERLING dust makes fabulous paste that can be used to attach greenware to greenware, sterling to greenware, or any combination of unfired, burned out, or fired clay. I add a little water to make a thick paste and then glue parts together. Prime the places that will be bonded by painting them with thinned paste. Dry and then apply the thick paste to the primed areas. This helps it stick better.

Whatever paste you don’t use, spread it thin so it’s easy to rehydrate. To rehydrate, add water a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  It rehydrates beautifully over and over again.

Co-Firing Gemstones

Use my Gemstones in Metal Clay guide to find which stones are safe in carbon. If they are safe in carbon, they are most likely safe for torch burnout because the temperature is so low and it’s so quick. What damages stones is the oxygen and heat combination for long periods of time.

Make sure you get the table level when you set stones. Crooked stones have a better chance of being ejected during firing.

You’ll have to set glass after firing since it can’t handle a carbon firing.

Firing Time

30 minutes is the minimum firing time for PMC STERLING. Firing time can be extended for extra strength. Pieces that were pasted on low dome wire and fired only 30 minutes broke off when I formed it on a mandrel. After re-pasting and re-firing for 2 hours, the pieces were as good as soldered on.


PMC STERLING is no different to solder than any other sterling silver. Use the type of solder that you are comfortable working with. Pickle and polish like any other sterling silver.

How Far Does it Go?

This photo represents everything I’ve made so far with one 25 gram package, and I still have some left. What you see in the photo is as follows, from left to right:

  1. A ring shank in 3 pieces that I broke on the way to the kiln. (tragedy!) This is what the clay looks like after burning out the binder with a torch.
  2. A cuff bracelet with blue sapphires. The sapphires elements were fired in place and bonded to low dome sterling wire. The first firing was too short and was not strong enough. Re-fired for 2 hours.
  3. Blue sapphires bonded onto sterling links. Made with leftovers.
  4. Squiggle earrings with yellow diamonds. Diamonds fired in place. Posts attached using hard paste solder.
  5. Unfired egg earrings with gypsy set yellow sapphires. I used a traditional gypsy setting technique to set these stones in the unfired clay. The dry clay is really strong. The stones snapped into their settings with a click.
  6. Unfired ring top with 1.03 carat cushion cut diamond. I’m not sure how I want the prongs yet. Shank not shown.
  7. Yellow sapphire ring (with replaced shank). I dropped this ring on the way to the kiln and had to replace the shank. The idea behind this ring was to see how strong a ring could be with a very small area where the parts join. To be sure of the strength, I fired this for 2 hours and then rounded it on a ring mandrel.

…and I still have about 5 more grams plus a bunch of dust and paste.

That’s a nice pile of jewelry out of one package of clay. It’s going a lot further because I know it’s strong so I can make pieces more delicate and thinner, and that saves a lot of material.

Stay tuned for the results of the big diamond ring firing experiment!



Check out our FREE Gilders Paste video featuring application techniques. Find out how adding color to your creations can be fast and easy!

Our latest videos are all in high definition. Click on “360p” in the lower right of the video and select “720p” for high definition. You can even watch full screen.

Keep an eye out for more videos, projects, and Tools Demos featuring other Gilders Paste techniques.


Congratulations to Katherine Steinbring, our final Facebook Contest winner!

“Wow! I really was totally excited and surprised when I found the e-mail on Thursday night.  I am a retired high school teacher (15 years teaching art and 17 years teaching English). Discovering metal clay really saved me after I retired, as I had no idea who I was beyond being a teacher. I’m not certified from any of the metal clay certification programs, because I can’t seem to get that much money together at one time. I have and do, however, take classes as often as I can afford them. I am lucky to have a site close to home, and I took classes just so I could fire for a while (I never knew about torch firing). I spent a week at Arrowmont in TN last year, too. MCWC was my first metal clay-related conference; I also took a polymer clay class there. As silver prices continue to skyrocket and fluctuate, I am glad to have found polymer to “play” with. I do belong to the Windy City PMC Guild. Cool Tools lets me indulge my love of tools and gadgets; I actually discovered Cool Tools through my first metal clay teacher. You are the best for quick shipping (I am sure it helps that I am not that far away from you).

Thanks again for choosing me as the lucky winner! It is always great to win something, and to win a Cool Tools gift certificate is awesome!”

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Facebook Contest. We will continue to offer great contests, promotions, and inspiration through our Facebook page! Keep an eye out for something new and just post on our wall anytime if you have any questions when making your creations!


Introducing the metal clay art of Christi Anderson. Christi is the newest artist to be added to the Cool Tools Gallery.

Christi is a self-taught metal clay artist who has won numerous awards for her work. Her pieces are impossibly intricate and mostly hand carved from very thin sheets of metal clay.

One night during the 2009 Bead & Button Show, a group of metal clay artists met for dinner, including me (Mardel Rein), Holly Gage, Gordon Uyehara, Bill and Lacey Ann Struve and others. Christi had just won the Bead Dreams first place award and one of her magical pieces was being passed around. We were trying to decide if she had really carved the piece or not! It was so intricate and so detailed that we just could not believe what we were seeing. We thought it had to be a mold.

Christi is in a league of her own when it comes to creating in metal clay. Come by and see for yourself what a true artist can do with this material. We are honored to display Christi’s work. Be sure and visit her Etsy site and purchase a treasure of your own.

The pictures shown here are from my own private collection. The top piece is a beautiful book that opens and has several pages, all with inscriptions and images. The bottom piece flips open to reveal a birds nest with eggs. See her amazing detail by clicking on the images to view a larger size. Then, visit the her gallery for a feast of metal clay artistry.


View Christi’s Gallery Here


Introducing our new downloadable project guide available in our Learning Center for free - The Royal Treatment Pendant.

The Royal Treatment Pendant features a bezel set faceted stone with sterling gallery wire and fine silver clay. It is easily modified for any type of metal clay and adds a touch of sophistication and royalty to your designs.

The Royal Treatment Pendant was designed by our official Project Designer – Lisa Barth. Lisa’s work is featured in our Jewelry Design Gallery and has now joined the Cool Tools team to help inspire others to create beautiful jewelry. Lisa Barth is a wire jewelry artist and metal clay instructor from Atlanta, Georgia. She teaches wire artistry and metal clay and draws her inspiration for her designs from the stone she is using.

Lisa uses a bezel set faceted stone with Sterling Gallery Wire. The texture on the Royal Treatment Pendant was made using our Jewelry Artist Elements Texture and cut out using a Jewelry Shape Template. This particular piece was made from Art Clay, but the project can be easily modified for any type of metal clay.

Find this project and many more available right here at Cool Tools. Keep an eye out for more free projects and many more to come from our new Project Designer, Lisa Barth.

Start getting the professional results you desire, and as always:

Learn. Create. Inspire.


Cool Tools is proud to announce our new Creative Rewards program for Cool Tools customers! With Cool Tools Creative Rewards you earn rewards points on every purchase you make. You’ll receive points based on your total product purchase amount. Your account will be automatically credited with one point for every dollar you spend (not including shipping and taxes). With Cool Tools Creative Rewards it’s easy to get rewarded for your creativity!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Once you’ve placed your order and it has shipped, your Cool Tools Creative Rewards will be redeemable the next day!
  2. To view your Cool Tools Creative Rewards, return  to the “login / my account” from the top right of any page, then click on Creative Rewards. Your points will be displayed there.
  3. To redeem your points, enter the total amount (in points) you’d like to redeem (50 points = $1).
  4. When you’re done, a confirmation will be sent to your email address.
  5. You are now ready to save on your next purchase. Upon placing your order, your available Cool Tools Creative Rewards will automatically be deducted from the total purchase amount.

Cool Tools now offers an amazing rewards programs to go along with our Free Shipping on all orders over $150. Add in our FREE project guides, how-to videos, and jewelry making articles, to go along with all the tools, resources, and expert advice you need, you’ll come up with the best place to shop for your next creation.

Get rewarded for your creativity.


Cool Tools Patina Gel is a unique stabilized form of liver of sulfur formulated by a metal clay artist, for a metal clay artist. Patina Gel is not only the most convenient and easy way to use liver of sulfur but amazingly it does not degrade in light and air the way the old fashioned lump form does. Cool Tools Patina Gel is stable so even if the container is left open the gel remains fresh.

Cool Tools Patina Gel is a tested product with proven results. Jewelry Artists are discovering the benefits of Cool Tools Patina Gel and Art Bead Scene writes “It’s a dream come true!” The Cool Tools unique Patina Gel chemistry makes it non-flammable and safe for international shipping. It mixes quickly and easily in water, or it can be brushed on full strength directly from the bottle. Cool Tools Patina Gel is economical. Use only what you need. No more digging for the right sized chunk or wasting pieces that are too large. No more throwing out a whole container because the lid was not on just right. Patina Gel is always fresh and always ready to use. Just a few drops are all you need for a batch of patina solution.

The convenience and long life of Cool Tools Patina Gel speaks for itself. Patina Gel oxidizes just like any other sulfur-based oxidizing agent, but it has an extended shelf life, lasting years, even uncovered. Cool Tools Patina Gel is not only a stable form of liver of sulfur but saves you time and money while delivering fantastic results.

As the largest manufacturer of metal clay tools in the United States, Cool Tools has had a long history of developing and refining innovative products. Known worldwide as a leader in creativity and productivity tools for jewelry artists, Cool Tools has created an instant staple in Cool Tools Patina Gel Stabilized Liver of Sulfur. Patina Gel is an example of taking a difficult and inconvenient task and making it simple and easy to use, something Cool Tools works at every day. Cool Tools Patina Gel offers you the ability to get any finish you desire on silver and any other metal clay.

Cool Tools offers FREE patina videos showing you tips, tricks, hints, shortcuts and expert advice. The Learning Center also features FREE down-loadable instructions on how to use Cool Tools Patina Gel as well as A Jewelry Artists Guide to Liver of Sulfur Patinas with unique patina recipes. Discover the difference that Cool Tools Patina Gel can make on your jewelry making projects.


Ask an experienced metal clay artist if diamonds can be co-fired in silver clay and most will advise against it. This is because it was something few dared and even fewer succeeded in doing. It was not a good bet.

Actual 1/3 carat genuine diamond before firing

Actual 1/3 carat genuine diamond before firing

In my 2005 article, Gemstones in Metal Clay, I warned that firing diamonds was a risky proposition. Diamonds have been known to disappear in the kiln, and torch firing often results in a cloudy stone. But now, with the help of activated carbon, diamonds and many other heat-sensitive stones can be safely co-fired in all types of metal clay.

Diamond Burst Necklace after firing and finishing. No cracks, no damage, fired perfectly in activated carbon. I risked a $900 diamond doing it, but it was worth it!

In my updated Gemstones in Metal Clay article (click the title to download), you’ll learn about carbon firing and which stones can be carbon-fired sucessfully in metal clays. Heat-sensitive gemstones (those that darken or change colors when fired in metal clay) can often take hours of firing with no damage when protected in a bed of activated carbon, and they can withstand higher temperatures. Take the case of the Tanzanite CZ. When fired on a kiln shelf or embedded in fine silver clay, this stone can take no more than 10 minutes at 1110F before the color begins to change. But when the same stone was buried in activated carbon, it survived an amazing 16 hours at 1500F with no change in color or clarity!

I’ve created a video showing the making of my Diamond Burst Necklace. After firing several small diamonds in carbon, I needed to fire a larger one. I created the necklace in PMC PRO to document the test firing. The Antique Mold I used is called Mushroom Cap. I wet-set a 1/3 carat natural diamond and fired it in a firing box made with our exclusive No-Flake Firing Foil, and coconut carbon. The firing was a success and the diamond came out just as sparkling and clear as it went in! (I couldn’t have been happier! that diamond was appraised at $900!) After firing, I burnished the necklace and added an antique patina with Cool Tools Patina Gel. To remove the unwanted patina and add a satin finish, I used a coarse Mini-Fiber Wheel. I polished the front with a 400 grit 3M Polishing Paper.

There are more details in the FREE downloadable project instructions and you can see the Diamond Burst Necklace video here. These and other videos can be found in our Learning Center.

I hope you will give diamonds a try with this wonderful method. Diamonds are more affordable than you may guess (unless of course you use a really big one!) and add scintillation and cachet like no other stone! Add beautiful distinction to your jewelry with diamonds.



The Emerald Tea Ring designed and created by Mardel Rein

Create this elegant Emerald Tea Ring with only 3 grams of clay and a few simple ring making techniques.

Explore our Learning Center and learn how to make amazing jewelry starting right here. The Emerald Tea Ring is an elegant & delicate ring designed by Mardel Rein. The ring features a unique prong-set stone that uses simple tools and very few supplies.

Mardel says, “I love delicate rings, and PMC PRO is the perfect material to use for creating a ring with the strength of sterling silver. I made the Emerald Tea Ring shank using my Ring Size and Hollow Rings Templates. I added texture to both sides of the shank and to the top of the prongs using my Carnations Texture Tile. I used a stone setting bur, a triangle shape cut-4 needle file and a V-Grove Dockyard Carver to cut a seat for the 6mm square stone. I refined the outside of the ring shank with a Sponge Sanding Pad and smoothed the inside of the ring with a Half Round Ring File. The Emerald Tea Ring was fired in a No-Flake Firing Foil Box in a bed of Activated Carbon. I finished the ring using a Brass Brush, 250 grit 3M Bristle Disc, the Half Round Ring File, Silicone Polishers and a Polishing Cloth. The emerald stone used is a 6x6mm square lab grown emerald. I set the stone using a riveting hammer.

The most exciting part of the Emerald Tea Ring is that I used only 3 grams of PMC PRO clay! I could never have made a ring this delicate and strong with fine silver clay. This is one of the great advantages of PMC PRO, it gives me the strength I need to make delicate, fine jewelry that will stand up to wear.

Download the complete detailed Emerald Tea Ring Project Instructions and, as always, watch the Project Video FREE in our Learning Center and find all the tools and supplies you need right here. At Cool Tools you’ll find Tools, Projects, and How-To Guides created just for metal clay artists. Express your inner elegance with help from Cool Tools.