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How to Make Silver Charms From Metal Clay for Personalized Handcrafted Jewelry Gifts

Margaret Schindel is a jewelry artist and internationally-known expert on metal clay techniques. PMC certified in 2006 by Celie Fago.

Sue Heaser's book, "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay", shows how to create your own precious metal charm jewelry to wear or give as a special gift.

Sue Heaser's book, "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay", shows how to create your own precious metal charm jewelry to wear or give as a special gift.

Learn How to Create One-of-a-Kind, Personal Charms to Wear or Give as Special Gifts

Personalized Silver Jewelry Charms Capture Special Memories and Important Milestones

There's something really special about jewelry charms that delights and enchants us. Maybe it's because we choose these tiny miniatures to represent people, passions, experiences and things that we — or the people to whom we give them as gifts — cherish.

Using metal clay allows you to create one-of-a-kind, highly personalized, handmade gifts of fine silver charms for yourself and the special women in your life. These are unique gifts to celebrate special memories and create new ones.

Even if you've never made a single piece of jewelry before, you can create stunning fine silver jewelry charms to adorn bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and even key rings with the help of Sue Heaser's book, "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" and a few simple tools and materials.

Metal Clay Is the Perfect Material for Making One-of-a-Kind, Fine Silver Charms

Silver clay is a unique jewelry making material that lets you create pure silver metal jewelry using many of the same simple techniques used to shape polymer clay or modeling clay. In case you're not yet familiar with metal clay, let me take a moment to tell you a bit about this wonderful jewelry making material .

Metal clay is a somewhat misleading term, since this material isn't really a clay. Fine silver metal clay pure silver metal (99.9% silver vs. sterling, which is only 92.5% silver) in a malleable, clay-like form. You can sculpt this form of silver, roll it into sheets, form it into balls, rods or ropes, impress it with nearly any texture you wish, carve it, drill it, sand it, set gemstones into it, and much more. Once the piece has been formed and perfected, it is left to dry so the water evaporates. Then the piece is fired it at high heat in a kiln or with a handheld butane kitchen torch to burn off the organic binder, leaving behind only the pure silver metal. It's a magical process! Not quite "spinning straw into gold," but an experience that feels almost like alchemy.

Why Learn How to Make Silver Charms?

Here are eight great reasons to learn to create your own charms from this malleable form of precious metal:

  1. You'll experience the joy of creating and wearing or giving a special piece of jewelry you made yourself. The step-by-step instructions in Sue Heaser's book will teach you to make silver jewelry charms that are professional looking so you can wear, give or even sell them with pride.
  2. Your handcrafted charms will be one of a kind. Even if you make three charms exactly the same way, each one will be a little different because it was made by hand. And once you master the basic techniques, you can easily add your own personal touches and create your own original designs.
  3. You can make any style you want. Making your own means you're not limited to the selection being offered in stores at any given moment. Anything you can think of can become a pure silver charm.
  4. You can make fine silver jewelry without learning traditional metalsmithing skills or buying costly tools. The projects in this book use simple techniques to produce sophisticated results. If you've ever used polymer clay or modeling clay, you already have many of the skills you'll need to make these beautiful charms.
  5. Mistakes can be fixed fairly easily. Until you fire a piece and it becomes solid metal, you can easily rehydrate the clay with water and reuse it. Unlike traditional metalsmithing, if you goof up or just change your mind you haven't wasted any precious metal!
  6. It's an easy way to get started making your own fine silver jewelry from metal clay. These charms are small, easy to make projects that can help you learn or practice metal clay skills that can be applied to making other types of jewelry, without using a lot of silver.
  7. Charms are not very expensive to make. The rising cost of precious metals has made silver jewelry (and silver metal clay) significantly more expensive than it was a few years ago. Because charms are very small they require only a small amount of material, so they're more affordable to make than earrings, pendants, pins, bracelets or rings.
  8. They can be a personal statement. The charms we choose to wear say something about us — our passions, our hobbies, our experiences, our travels, our families. They tell a story. Learning how to make your own charms lets you create jewelry that expresses who you are and what you love. It also lets you create very personal, treasured gifts that reflect the unique interests of a special recipient.

What Makes This Book Special

Renowned miniaturist and polymer and metal clay artist Sue Heaser has written more than a dozen books. This one lives up to her usual standard: reliable information, clear, concise and easy to follow instructions, and interesting projects that serve as an engaging vehicle for helping readers learn specific foundational techniques.

Making very simple charms by rolling out clay, texturing it and cutting it out with a template and a needle tool or with a shape cutter is a very common first project for metal clay newbies. Ms. Heaser has designed charm projects that teach simple but effective sculptural techniques that are easy enough for a relatively inexperienced metal clayer to create successfully and also attractive and detailed enough to be engaging, even for intermediate clayers.

Some of the things that make How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay a book worth owning:

The Charm Selector Feature

The "charm selector" makes it easy to choose the charms you're interested in making and go straight to the project instructions. Pages 16-19 are a visual table of contents to the projects, photos of all 50 charms with the page numbers for their respective step-by-step instructions. Just browse through the photos on these four pages, choose the charm you want to learn to make, and go straight to the project pages. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself flipping back and forth through a jewelry making book trying to find a particular project, especially when the index in the back is long, dense, or in tiny type. Whoever came up with this brilliant idea should get a medal!

The Designs

The charm designs are fabulous. Prior to reading this book, the only charms I ever was motivated to make were either for a metal clay charm swap among fellow metal clay artists or for contributions to charm bracelets that were raffled off to benefit nonprofit organizations. But after seeing some of Sue's more sophisticated and unusual designs in How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay, I've already started thinking about adapting some of them into my own unique versions for a special bracelet for myself. I also plan to make some pairs of charms as earring dangles, and maybe a few to hang from my key chain as a pretty, one-of-a-kind fob. Sue provides some wonderful ideas for different ways to use and wear your handmade silver charms.

The Variety of Motifs

The variety of designs is terrific. Sue has done a fantastic job of creating 50 different designs with enough variety to suit anyone's taste. Miniature owls, birds, ducks, fish, turtles, hats, dresses, purses, shoes, sailboats, books, lucky clovers, horseshoes, snowflakes, shells, baby rattles, even champagne glasses filled with optional tinted resin faux champagne with bubbles made of tiny, clear seed beads.

Be sure to check out the sample projects photo gallery above to see just a few of the many wonderful charms in this book. Sue even teaches you how to make two styles of converter beads (slider beads with a hole along the bottom edge to which you can attach the charm of your choice with a jump ring). Using a slider bead lets you to add charms to necklaces or bracelets other than curb link chains, such as snake chains, ribbons or leather cords, with either one or multiple strands. She shows you how to make a large converter bead style for necklaces and a smaller one for bracelets.

Motifs Are Grouped Into Themes

Here are the eight themes and the projects included in each one:

Traditional Charms

  • Hearts
  • Stars
  • Maltese or Celtic Crosses
  • Padlocks
  • Keys
  • Lucky Clovers
  • Horseshoes
  • Coins

Nature Charms

  • Flowers
  • Roses
  • Shells
  • Butterflies
  • Toadstools / Mushrooms
  • Snowflakes

Children's Charms

  • Fairies
  • Pumpkin Coaches
  • Flying Kits
  • Teddy Bears
  • Baby Rattles
  • Ducklings

Hobby Charms

  • Ballet Slippers
  • Music Clefs and Notes
  • Books
  • Ball of Yarn with Knitting Needles
  • Cars
  • Sailboats and Flags
  • Tennis Rackets (with and without tennis balls)

Fashion Charms - Clothing and Accessories

  • High-Heeled Shoes
  • Purses / Handbags
  • Dresses
  • Hats
  • Parasols / Umbrellas

Animal Charms

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Fish
  • Birds / Bluebirds
  • Horses
  • Owls
  • Turtles (Steampunk)

Keepsake Charms

  • Picture Frames
  • Silhouettes
  • Letters
  • Fingerprints
  • Birthday Cakes (fabulous!)
  • Champagne Glasses

Bead Charms

  • Gemstone Beads
  • Fruit
  • Skulls
  • Little Houses
  • Converter Beads

One of the reasons I like this approach is that it makes it easy to create a charm bracelet or necklace with several related motifs. For example, if you or someone you know has a passion for fashion, you can make a one-of-a-kind charm bracelet featuring a complete outfit, including a flirty sundress, high-heeled sandals, a lacy purse, a straw hat trimmed with colored ribbons and maybe a flower, and a feminine parasol.

What about making a treasured heirloom bracelet to celebrate the birth of a new baby with tiny charms including beaded baby rattles, teddy bears, and duckies, or a bracelet for a child featuring sailboats, kites, and toy cars?

The book includes a wonderful examples of an animal lover's bracelet with dog, cat, owl, fish and bluebird charms. You could easily add (or substitute) a horse and/or turtle. Of course, once you learn the basics from this book, you'll be able to make any type of animal you'd like.

Projects for All Experience Levels

There are projects for all levels, from beginner to experienced metal clay users. Each project is annotated with a difficulty level rating of one to three stars, so it's easy to tell in advance whether a particular project will be beyond your current skill level and which ones will help you take your skills to the next level.

A Great Way to Learn Basic Metal Clay Jewelry Making Skills

The projects can help metal clay beginners build a repertoire of useful metal clay jewelry skills, one charm at a time. If you're brand new to metal clay, you can start with easy roll-and-cut charms, then move on to projects that include more advanced techniques. Some of the advanced techniques taught in this book include how to:

  • Add fire-in-place gemstones
  • Create and join components
  • Sculpt fresh metal clay
  • Make hollow forms
  • Create faux screw heads
  • Make a mold of an object and use it to create a smaller replica in pure silver
  • Create a pure silver silhouette portrait from a photo
  • Capture a fingerprint in fine silver
  • Create a wide variety of embellishments
  • Engrave a name or design in dried metal clay pieces before firing
  • Add a patina with liver of sulfur
  • Add colorful faux enamel accents with glass paints or tinted resin

Clever and Unusual Designs

The designs are clever and unusual enough to inspire even experienced metal clay jewelry artists. Prior to seeing the delightful miniatures in How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay, I had relatively little interest in making charms. But Sue Heaser's clever and innovative designs sparked my imagination, and since reading this book, I have made many one-of-a-kind charms as special gifts, using not only fine silver but also bronze metal clay.

Detailed, Step-by-Step Photos for Each Project

I have a thing for jewelry making books that include detailed photos of each step of the process. Each of the 50 projects in How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay includes eight step-by-step process photos.

Diagrams and Actual-Size Images Show Dimensions Before and After Firing

One of the really helpful aspects of this book, especially for people who are fairly new to metal clay, is the actual-size diagrams with dimensions for making the piece side-by-side with an actual-size photo of the finished charm so you can see the shrinkage as well as get a sense of how tiny each charm will be if you make it in the suggested size.

Design Variations

One of the things I really love about this book is that Sue doesn't just teach you how to make one type of detailed miniature silver dog or parasol or sea shell. Instead, she shows how to make Scotties, Labradors, and Dachshunds; parasols in two different shapes, with beaded or curved handles, with and without added color, and with and without a beaded edging; and several types of sea shells, including an open cockle shell that holds a tiny pearl. So, the 50 projects include instructions for creating significantly more than 50 different charms.

Fun and Inspiring Ideas for Using and Wearing Your Charms

The book starts off with a short chapter called We [heart] Charms that includes a brief introduction followed by a gallery of finished jewelry that is sure to inspire. Sue's examples go far beyond the traditional charm bracelet and include fun ways to incorporate your silver miniatures into fun, funky and elegant jewelry designs. Each project also shows different ways the charms can be used.

If You're New to Metal Clay

The book includes a short section on materials, tools and techniques, but if you have little or no previous experience working with metal clay I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with basic metal clay techniques before making the charms in How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay. As someone who owns most of the books that have been published about metal clay, I enthusiastically recommend another of Sue Heaser's books, Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers: The Complete Technique Guide, as one of the best all-around books on working with metal clay you can buy.

Sue's clear, in-depth explanations of fundamental metal clay techniques provides an excellent foundation for learning best practices for working with this wonderful material. This book not only does a great job of explaining basic, foundational techniques, it also includes many intermediate and advanced techniques that will help you develop a wider repertoire of skills over time.

Because it is so comprehensive, even seasoned metal clay jewelry artists will find lots of helpful tips and tricks in this book. It is also a helpful reference to refresh your memory about a particular type of clay or technique. I highly recommend Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers: The Complete Technique Guide a valuable addition to every metal clay jewelry artist's library.

© 2013 Margaret Schindel

Have you every made jewelry before? Have I piqued your interest in learning to make beautiful silver charms with metal clay?

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 21, 2015:

Lorelei, you're such a sweetheart! I'm delighted that you enjoy my jewelry tips and tutorials (and I love that you're a fellow punster).

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on July 21, 2015:

You always manage to charm me with your jewelry tips and tutorials. ;)

CherylsArt on October 24, 2014:

Thank you Margaret.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 24, 2014:

Hi Cheryl, let me know if and when you're ready to play with some metal clay. I'd be delighted to give you some help and tips for getting started. :)

CherylsArt on October 22, 2014:

Hi Margaret, sometime I might actually consider making some charms. I've been intrigued by clay jewelry before. I do find this interesting.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 21, 2014:

Hi Cheryl, I understood that the charms you gave her previously were purchased. :) I just thought you were considering making a few more to add to the bracelet. I still wear the gold charm bracelet my parents gave me when I was in school with all the charms they bought me during their (or our) trips to special places. I'm thinking about making a silver one for myself with unique charms that reflect my current interests and important life events. Maybe something you might consider as a gift for your daughter sometime in the future. I'm sure it would mean a lot to her to have such a special piece of jewelry that you designed and made for her!

CherylsArt on October 21, 2014:

Ooops, Margaret, my fingers got ahead of my thinking. It would have been very special if it had been hand made. I think that would be lovely. But currently, I don't have any plans of making one. It was a charm bracelet that we kept adding to while she was in school. She's in college now.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 21, 2014:

Cheryl, given your tremendous artistic talent I can only imagine how wonderful the silver charms you make will be! I'm sure your daughter will cherish them, and I'd love to see them, too.

CherylsArt on October 21, 2014:

This sounds like a wonderful idea Margaret. We purchased charms for a special bracelet for our daughter; each year we bought a new charm while she was in school. Each one had a special meaning. It would be even more special being hand made.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 07, 2014:

@NellyWerff: Thank you! I'm delighted to have shared this book with you at just the right time for your project. You'll love all the different ideas for sculpting your own charms from silver metal clay!

Nelly van der Werff from The Netherlands on July 03, 2014:

This is so beautiful! and just what I needed for a project I'm working on for which I couldn't find the right charms.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 31, 2013:

@Sylvestermouse: Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Cynthia! I'm truly delighted that you enjoyed my review of the book, and I think you'd have a fabulous time making your own silver charms for yourself or as holiday gifts. Thanks again! :)

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on October 31, 2013:

An excellent book review and explanation of metal clay! Makes me want to jump right in and make my own silver charms. Really awesome!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 29, 2013:

@Ruthi: Thanks so much for both of your wonderful compliments! I'm delighted that you enjoyed my book review and I'm very grateful for your kind words about my jewelry making talent, dear lady. <3

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 29, 2013:

@LisaAuch1: Lisa dear, thanks so much for your wonderful comment! It really does seem like making metal clay charms with your daughter would be a perfect way to spend quality time together while learning a new and valuable skill. And the best part is that afterward you'll both have permanent, precious silver keepsakes that you can wear now and then pass on to future generations as treasured heirlooms. I really hope you get a chance to try making silver metal clay charms together! <3

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 29, 2013:

@jptanabe: It really is! I've got a whole slew of lenses about metal clay on Squidoo (close to 20!) that your husband might be interested in to learn more about this awesome jewelry making material. This book plus Sue's other book I've recommended in this lens would be a great combination for learning how to create fine jewelry from metal clay. If he makes a lot of jewelry with gemstones, I'd also highly recommend getting Lisa Barth's awesome book, Designing From the Stone. I've written an in-depth review of it on Squidoo as well.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 29, 2013:

@sousababy: Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Rose! It really is a wonderful introduction to both the finer points of detailed charm making and the wonderful world of fine silver metal clay. So glad you enjoyed my review!

Ruthi on October 29, 2013:

Terrific review of the book, Margaret! I think I will leave the jewelry making to those who are charmed with the talent - like you!

Lisa Auch from Scotland on October 29, 2013:

My daughter loves her charm bracelets and I think she is at an age where she would LOVE this! I can see us spending quality time doing this, thanks for the review!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on October 29, 2013:

I'm not good at this type of thing but my husband makes jewelry. I have to tell him about this metal clay - it sounds amazing!

sousababy on October 28, 2013:

There's nothing quite a special as custom jewelry. This sounds like a fabulous book to learn the finer points of detailed charm making.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 28, 2013:

@Gayle Dowell: Thanks so much, Gayle! I never dreamed I would get into a book about making charms, but this one's got some awesome designs that are inspiring lots of ideas for my own adorable miniatures. I hope Santa brings you a copy of your very own, my friend! :)

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 28, 2013:

@Diana Wenzel: Thank you so much for your wonderful compliment and extremely kind words, D! I'm truly honored that I have demonstrated my credibility enough to earn such trust from you. Please do let me know if I can give you any help or answer any questions about creating jewelry with metal clay. As you know, both creating jewelry and sharing my knowledge are passions of mine and it would be a joy to help you get started with my favorite jewelry making material. <3

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 28, 2013:

@David Stone1: Thank you so much, Dave! That's a really terrific compliment, especially coming from someone whose writing and opinion I admire a great deal. Much appreciated, my friend!

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on October 28, 2013:

Great review Margaret. May need to put this one on my Christmas wish list!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on October 28, 2013:

What a comprehensive review. Fantastic! You have definitely convinced me to create jewelry with metal clay. You have such credibility with me that I trust your honest recommendations and would go for anything you promote as high quality.

David Stone from New York City on October 28, 2013:

Beautiful work, writing good enough for the art, a fairly uncommon experience.