Precious metal clay alternatives for sculpting jewellery

Precious metal clay alternatives? Actually the question should be put the other way round. Precious metal clay has been developed as an ‘alternative’ to casting. Casting such as for instance lost wax casting is a much older technique used to make sculptures from precious metals. Also other techniques like fusing or melting have been easier and more available. Each of these methods has its advantages and drawbacks. Let me compare the three techniques which I use in practice for making, a.o. my cats: precious metal clay sculpting, Delft casting and simple fusing/melting of metal scrap.

Precious metal clay Delft casting Fusing/ melting
 sculpted cat ring  goldencat5df  sterling cat pendant white opal
Medium ease, special and expensive tools (kiln) necessary.
Challenging to learn. Experience and special tools (Delft clay, rings, high-fire propane torch) required.
Easy and available. Propane torch is the most expensive tool required. A butane torch will do for smaller pieces.
Very high. Virtually every detail possible. Every shape can be made. Easy to add texture.
Medium to high. Much depends on the quality of the prototype, the mold and casting process itself. Not every shape can be cast!
Quite low. Surface defects (pitting) possible owing to metal scrap contamination and incomplete metal fusing.
Quick result
Lengthy processing of many steps. However the end result can be seen and corrected at an early stage (dry clay before firing). Processing after firing is mainly limited to polishing and soldering. Filing is rarely needed.
Medium length step-by-step procedure: making the prototype, making the mold with the prototype, casting. Owing to incomplete casting further processing/ shaping may be required.
The result is quick and adjustable in process. However processing afterwards (shaping, cutting,  sawing, soldering, filing, polishing) may be more time consuming than fusing itself.
Material use
Special and quite expensive material required. Completely recyclable before firing. To recycle after firing other techniques needed.
Great way to recycle old precious metals and  precious metal clay fails (after firing). End product quality good if silver/gold scrap is of good quality.
Very economical way of recycling. However the quality can be lower owing to metal scrap contamination and incomplete metal fusing.


Conclusion: there are no easy precious metal clay alternatives when it comes to precision sculpting. However if other factors, such as material use, ease/availability or quick result matter more, other techniques could be used with same success.

Leave a Reply