SHARE IT
Pin this on Pinterest

Openwork metal clay pendant

Frame a dimensional design accented with open spaces and a bezel-set stone

To create the focal point of my pendant, I made a mold from a photopolymer plate, then translated the design into clay. Cutting away the plain sections of the design gave the pendant a pierced look. Including a favorite opal cabochon required some advance planning, since opal cannot be fired in place. I formed a fine-silver bezel and added it to the pendant, then fired and polished them together. After the firing and finishing, I set the opal to complete the pendant.

For instructions, read below. To see the free project PDF, which includes information on making a photopolymer plate, click here.

Materials 

  • Metal clay:
    - Silver metal clay; 25 g
    - Metal clay paste
    - Metal clay syringe
  • Fine-silver bezel wire: 28 gauge (0.32 mm), 1 3⁄4 x 1⁄8 in. (44 x 3 mm), 1 in. (25.5 mm)
  • Small cabochon

Tools & supplies

  • Photopolymer plate supplies:
    - Transparency
    - Masonite or glass
    - Foam-core sheet
    - Photopolymer plate
    - Non-UV-resistant glass
    - Large bulldog clips: 2
    - UV lamp: 9 volt
    - Soft brush
  • Circle drafting template
  • Needle tool
  • Flush cutters
  • Dental floss
  • Soft plastic sheet (optional)
  • Bezel pusher

Toolbox: Metal clay

Instructions

Determine the size and design of your pendant. Metal clay shrinks in the drying and firing process, so you need to increase the size of the pendant you are making to compensate for shrinkage. To adjust for the difference, create a sketch of your finished design and increase it by the appropriate percentage on a copier. Or, if you’re using a drafting template, choose the template of your desired finished size, then use a larger template based on the percentage of shrinkage.

For the textured design, you can either choose a manufactured mold or make a photopolymer plate (to see “How to Make a Photopolymer Plate” in the project PDF, click here). Choose a design that fits well inside the dimensions of your pendant; a big, bold pattern might disappear in the relatively small window of a pendant’s frame.

Also, keep in mind which areas you’ll cut away; your design should have open areas that you can remove to create negative space.

Openwork metal clay pendant 1
Photo 1
Openwork metal clay pendant 2
Photo 2

Make the pendant frame. Apply natural hand balm or olive oil to your work surface, a roller, circle template, and the tip of a needle tool. Roll out approximately 20 g of clay to 3 playing cards (0.75 mm) thick in a roughly round shape. Use a circle template and a needle tool to cut a disk from the clay [1].

Using a circle that’s 1⁄4 in. (6.5 mm) smaller in diameter than the first circle, cut a hole in the center of the clay disk, creating a ring. Remove the excess clay, taking care not to distort the ring [2]. Allow the clay to dry until mostly dry. Use emery boards or sanding sponges to refine the inside and outside edges of the ring.

Openwork metal clay pendant 3
Photo 3
Openwork metal clay pendant 4
Photo 4

Make the bail. Roll out approximately 10 g of clay to 3 cards (0.75 mm) thick. Cut the clay to form a roughly 1 1⁄4 x 7⁄8-in. (32x 22 mm) rectangle. Without pressing down, position the cutter diagonally from the center of one long side of the rectangle to the center of one short end. Then move the blade half the distance from the center point of the short end to the closest corner. Cut away the clay. Repeat to remove a portion of each corner of the rectangle and form a blunt-ended diamond shape [3].

Place the center of the long side of the rectangle over a drinking straw or glass rod, then bring the blunt ends together [4] to form the bail. Allow the bail to dry until mostly dry. Use emery boards or sanding sponges to refine the points at the top of the bail until they are shaped into a gentle curve.

Openwork metal clay pendant 5
Photo 5

Make the bezel. Wrap 28-gauge (0.32 mm) fine-silver bezel wire around the base of a cabochon.

NOTE: If your cab isn’t round, the ends of the wire should meet on a long side of the cab, not on a point or sharp curve.

Mark where the wire overlaps [5]. Use flush cutters to cut the wire at the mark. Wrap the cut wire around the cab to test the fit; the bezel should be slightly loose. If needed, use flush cutters to trim the wire a small bit at a time until you are happy with the fit.

The ends of the bezel wire must meet flush for the finished seam to be neat. If necessary, file the ends of the wire, being careful not to make the bezel too small. Gently push the ends of the wire over and under each other until the ends square up and are held together by tension.

Place a small amount of metal clay paste over the join in the bezel, then let it dry completely. Fire the bezel in a kiln at the manufacturer’s highest recommended temperature, and hold for 20 minutes; allow to cool.

Openwork metal clay pendant 6
Photo 6
Openwork metal clay pendant 7
Photo 7

Make the design layer of the pendant. Lightly oil your mold. Roll out the remaining clay to 4 cards (1 mm) thick. Press the clay gently into the mold.

NOTE: Depending on the mold and your design, you may find you can work with less clay and roll to 3 cards (0.75 mm) thick, but remember that you will be cutting away clay and you do not want this area to be too thin.

Remove the clay from the mold. Using the same circle template used to cut the outer circle of the frame, cut out a circle around the design [6]. Allow the clay to dry to a semi-dry state.

Using a small paintbrush, place a bead of paste around the edge of the design layer and moisten the back of the top frame with water [7]. Place the top frame onto the design layer, lining up the edges, and press down gently. Check the sides for any gaps between the layers; use syringe clay to fill any gaps if necessary. Use a damp paintbrush to clean up and smooth the edges, then set the piece aside to dry to a semi-dry state.

Openwork metal clay pendant 8
Photo 8
Openwork metal clay pendant 9
Photo 9

Cut away the excess clay. When you cut away the clay around your design, you must leave a ledge of clay to act as a platform for your bezel and stone. Place your cabochon along the inside edge of the frame. Use a craft knife to cut around the cab.

NOTE: The platform should be approximately 12–14% larger than the cab, as the clay will shrink during firing.

Cut away clay around the design; be sure to leave the design area anchored to the frame in at least two spots [8]. Remove the excess clay [9]. Allow the pendant body to dry until mostly dry. Use sanding sponges and files to refine the edges, working from lowest to highest grit.

NOTE: If you add your signature or a quality mark to your pieces, use paste to attach the mark to the back of the pendant body at this point.

Openwork metal clay pendant 10
Photo 10
Openwork metal clay pendant 11
Photo 11

Attach the bail. Place some clay paste onto the blunt end of the bail. Moisten the area on the back of the pendant body where the bail will be attached [10]. Invert the bail, place it onto the pendant, then press down gently. Allow the join to dry to a mostly dry state. Use syringe clay to fill any gaps between the bail and the pendant body. Use a wet paintbrush to smooth any rough spots, then allow the pendant to dry to a completely dry state.

Refine, dry, and finish. Prepare the pendant for a shiny finish by refining the frame and bail with progressively finer grits of polishing papers. Polish the central design lightly with a fine grit; be careful not to remove definition from the design.

Fire the pendant. Place the pendant face down on a kiln shelf, and fire at the manufacturer’s highest recommended firing temperature for 2 hours.

Attach the bezel. Place some clay paste along the inside edge of the platform. Dip the bottom edge of the bezel in clay paste, and set it into place on the platform [11]. Allow the pendant to dry until mostly dry. Use more paste to fill any gaps, then allow the pendant to dry completely.

Place the pendant bezel-side up on a kiln shelf. Fire at the highest recommended temperature, hold for 10 minutes, then allow it to cool. Use a small file to remove any excess metal from the outer edges of the bezel platform.

Polish. Brush the pendant with a brass brush in soapy water, then either burnish by hand or tumble it for 1 hour. Use a new set of fine-grit sanding sponges to remove scratches and imperfections. Polish the outer ring and bail of the pendant to a high shine using a new set of polishing papers, sanding through progressively finer grits up to 8000 grit (1 micron). Polish the central design lightly with the two finest grits of polishing papers, again taking care not to remove definition from the design. If desired, apply a liver of sulfur patina to the central portion to increase the definition of the design.

Openwork metal clay pendant 12
Photo 12
Check the stone’s fit in the bezel. Lay a piece of dental floss across the bezel, then place the stone in the bezel [12]. (The floss will keep the stone from becoming stuck while you test for fit.)
Tip!
The top of a flat cabochon should be just below the edge of the bezel. For a rounded cab, the bezel should come up just to the point where the cab starts to curve.

If the bezel is too high, either raise the stone or file down the bezel. To raise the stone, cut several pieces of thin, soft plastic (a CD sleeve works well) in the same shape as the stone, and place them in the bezel.

If you are filing down the bezel, be sure to work evenly so that the top remains level. File evenly across the top of the bezel. Alternatively, place a piece of sandpaper on your work surface, and hold the pendant bezel-side down against it. Move the pendant across the sandpaper in a circular or figure-8 pattern.

Check the fit again, using the dental floss. Once you are satisfied, remove the dental floss.

Set the stone. When looking at the bezel, determine the following points: 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. Use a bezel pusher to push the bezel against and over the stone at the 12 o’clock position. Repeat at 6 o’clock. Keep working around the bezel, pushing gently on opposing points, to maintain the shape. Once the stone is secure, use a curved steel or agate burnisher to flatten and smooth the edge of the bezel wire against the stone.

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of FacetJewelry.com are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
PRODUCTS YOU MIGHT LIKE
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD
$4.95
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD
$4.95
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
Get awesome news, tips, & free stuff!