Court Customers With Clay

December 1998

Precious Metals:Metalsmithing

Court Customers With Clay

Show your customers the wonders of creating jewelry with precious metal clay

Many of us remember the childhood satisfaction of shaping a lump of modeling clay into a work of art. Now Mitsubishi Materials of Japan, the maker of precious metals clay, is encouraging retailers to sponsor in-store promotions that allow customers to play with PMC to create their own jewelry.

PMC is made of pure precious metal powder (gold or silver), water and a non-toxic organic binder. When the clay is formed into an object and fired, the water and binder disappear, leaving the original piece with exactly the same images, textures and details, but in pure metal and much smaller (the finished piece is about half the size of the original). After firing, the metal is about 80% as dense as in jewelry made in conventional ways.

PMC was introduced in the U.S. in 1995 and is distributed exclusively by Rio Grande Inc., Albuquerque, NM. Many professional jewelers, metalsmiths and jewelry designers have experimented with PMC; their results are displayed regularly in Studio PMC, a newsletter filled with ideas on using the medium creatively and artistically.

Draw Consumers to Your Store
In addition to its creative potential, retailers can use PMC as a fun and potentially lucrative vehicle for promotions and in-store workshops for consumers to create their own jewelry, says Tim McCreight, a Maine goldsmith and creative consultant to Mitsubishi Materials. Because PMC is so easy to work with and requires such a small investment in time, space and equipment, says McCreight, you can offer customers unique, personalized pieces made quickly by your own goldsmith.

To become even more innovative, let your customers create their own pieces. McCreight assures that they'll love the experience and reward your store with their loyalty.

The idea to use PMC to attract consumers started outside the jewelry industry with an explosion in the growth of franchised Contemporary Ceramic Studios. People gather at these studios to socialize, hold office functions, drink coffee and paint, glaze and fire preformed bisqueware. They pay a fee for table use and firing and, of course, buy the finished piece.

McCreight theorized people who frequent these studios might like to work also with clay, precast items and especially PMC to create unique jewelry to wear or give as gifts. The idea caught on; McCreight has even seen people in the studios make silver swizzle stick tops, fancy buttons for handmade clothing, party favors and napkin holders. He expects PMC to be offered by about 100 such franchised studios by early 1999.

McCreight conducts one-day workshops to help studios get started and can offer similar services to retail jewelers who want to work with PMC on their own. He estimates the start-up investment for ceramic studios to be around $1,000 (jewelers might spend somewhat more to buy tables and chairs a ceramic studio already has). Ongoing costs include the clay, findings and extra electricity. But if you charge customers for the clay and small fees for use of a table and kiln, such a program could become a profit center.

Contact McCreight in Cape Elizabeth, ME, at (207) 767-6059, fax (207) 799-1172, e-mail or go to the Website

To obtain precious metals clay or to order a $40 videotape explaining how jewelers can work with PMC, call Rio Grande at (800) 443-6766.

Brooch by Sanaè Asayama (left) features 24k gold precious metal clay and an amethyst. Pod earrings by Sandi Jones were made with silver PMC and freshwater pearls.





Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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