Metal clay is a crafting medium consisting of very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper mixed with an organic binder and water for use in making jewelry, beads and small sculptures. Originating in Japan in 1990, metal clay can be shaped just like any soft clay, by hand or using molds. After drying, the clay can be fired in a variety of ways such as in a kiln, with a handheld gas torch, or on a gas stove, depending on the type of clay and the metal in it. The binder burns away, leaving the pure sintered metal. Shrinkage of between 8% and 30% occurs (depending on the product used). Alloys such as bronze, sterling silver, and steel also are available.
Precious Metal Clay (PMC) was developed in the early 1990s in Japan by metallurgist Masaki Morikawa. As a solid-phase sintered product of a precious metal powder used to form a precious metal article, the material consists of microscopic particles of pure silver or fine gold powder and a water-soluble, non-toxic, organic binder that burns off during firing. Success was first achieved with gold and later duplicated with silver.