• Karen Trexler

Can the New Cultured Opals be Fired in Carbon with Bronze or Copper Metal Clay? by Karen Trexler

Updated: Nov 12



I had the privilege of virtually meeting Holly Gage, and we had a lovely time talking about all things Metal Clay. One of the things that came up was her very exciting work with firing her husband, Chris Gage's Cultured Opals in Metal Clay, and how she was hoping to have some more testing done with the Opals and firing them in carbon. Since I regularly fire base metal clays I offered to see how they would fire in Aureus Bright Bronze Clay created by Cindy Silas and sold by Cool Tools (.us).


Since this was a test piece, I wanted to do something simple and let the White Iridescence Faceted Cultured Opal speak for itself. I formed a simple ring using Cool Tool’s Silicon ring mandrels, set the Cultured Opal with precision hole punches, and accented that setting with floral elements created from Wanaree Tanner’s die-cut tools. Now we get to the important part — the firing.


Since Holly has al has a two-phase firing in e Opals at 1650℉ for 2 hours, I didn’t anticipate there being any issues taking them to 1400℉ for 2 hours as required for the Aureus Bright Bronze Clay to sinter. The only question was, will the Coconut Carbon provide the same insulation and protection to the Cultured Opal that Holly experienced when testing in vermiculite? I followed the formula for success that Holly detailed in her latest blog. You can find the most up-to-day information on Chris Gage Opals at HealingPhoenixLapidary.com as tests are being done all the time, and new information is coming in fast and furious.

How to Fire Cultured Opals in Bronze Metal Clay

  • Placed with the table of the Heat Resistant Cultured Opal facing down on an inch of coconut carbon for the initial phase to burn out the binders.

  • Set the kiln to a 1350℉ ramp.

  • Fire for 30 minutes at 650℉.

  • Once the first phase is finished, keep the Opal oriented with the culet pointed up and pour an additional inch of carbon over the top of the piece.

  • Ramp at 1350℉.

  • Set the target temperature for 1400℉ with a 2-hour hold.
 


When the second phase was complete, and the kiln had cooled, I was so excited to dig out my ring and see how the Chris Gage Opal did firing in carbon. The Opal turned out spectacularly! From this test, it appears that these Cultured Opals can be fired in Bronze Metal Clay and Coconut Carbon successfully. I cannot get over all the beautiful flash and color in these stones. I love firing stones in place and building precious Metal Clay settings for faceted stones, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to start using these Cultured Opals in my work.


How to Fire Cultured Opals in Copper Metal Clay


Cyprus Copper Clay has a two-phase firing in Coconut Carbon:

  • Placed with the table of the Heat Resistant Cultured Opal facing down on an inch of Coconut Carbon for the initial phase to burn out the binders.

  • Set the kiln to a 1350℉ ramp.

  • Fire for 30 minutes at 650℉.

  • Once the first phase is finished, keep the Opal oriented with the culet pointed up and pour an additional inch of carbon over the top of the piece.

  • Ramp at 1350℉.

  • Set the target temperature for 1600℉ with a 3-hour hold.




Again, when the second phase was complete, and the kiln had cooled, I was so excited to dig out my ring and see how the Opal did firing in carbon. The Opal turned out spectacularly!"


Karen Trexler has over 14 years of jewelry-making experience and received a BFA at Ball State University and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin Madison in metalsmithing. Karen is the resident artist at Cool Tools, regularly developing projects and teaching others how to work with Metal Clay.



Where to get the New Heat Resistant Opals

Christopher is now carrying these new heat-resistant Cultured Opals on his website at HealingPhoenixLapidary.com. He is excited to add them to his collection of Cultured Opals, but they are not to be confused with his artisan-cut Cultured Opal cabochons he offers on his Friday 10 to 10 Auctions, and he is sure to mark both clearly when making a purchase. We both want you to have success using them, so we'll be adding new information as testing continues. You will find the most accurate information on his website.


Beware, not all cultured or lab-grown opals are heat resistant. Results may differ with different clays; therefore, Christopher and Holly Gage, Gage Designs, and Healing Phoenix Lapidary can not be held responsible for individual results or operator error. We are providing this information to foster the love of using Cultured Opals and your enjoyment as a jewelry artisan.

 

New Winter Classes

Holly's Metal Clay and Jewelry Workshop Schedule is packed with

Live, Interactive Online Classes for ALL Abilities. If you can roll out Metal Clay, you can take any one of my classes with success. Now, they are recorded! Click here for details or click on the Class Title.

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Radiant Opal Pendant New

Tuesday, January 10 - February 21 (skip Feb. 14)

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter

6-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability You'll create intricate open spaces and surface textures with your rotary tool and a variety of diamond burs in the greenware stage of your Silver Metal Clay while learning the secrets for firing Cultured Opals in place. How to Inlay Opal Shards is a "bonus" section to the class.

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Whimsical Critters 4 Spots

Monday, November 21, 2022 - January 16, 2023 (skip Dec. 19 & 26)

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter

8-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability

Using Photopolymer plate making techniques you'll create your own textures, as well as utilize found textures to form the Metal Clay body of your favorite critter. This outer layer will be used to create a hollow form. Using dried-to-dried construction, you'll put the critter together allowing you to explore construction, forming, and carving. Finally, you can add a gleaming glass eye to bring it alive.

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Tropical Flora Lei Brooch New

Thursday, December 1, 2022 - January 12, 2023 (skip Dec. 22)

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter

6-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability I will show you how to make your own embossed Metal Clay texture plates using easy to manipulate copper sheet and ball stylus. The design will focus on stylized techniques to help you interpret flowers with your own unique flair. We will explore distinctive ways to set a fire-in-place gem to create a unique and dynamic focal point, including your own handmade pin back so you can wear your gorgeous new brooch. ___________________________________________________________

Bezel Setting Like a Pro 4 Spots

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 - January 4, 2023 (skip Dec. 28)

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter

4-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability

This 2-part firing method of working with bezel settings and Metal Clay is clean and forgiving, so no soldering, no investment placeholder, no pull away from embedding the wire, no distortion, and the stone fits every time! A crowd favorite!

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Jewelry That Rocks! New

Exploring Art, Design, and Line through Music

December 6, 2022 -January 3, 2023 (skip Dec. 28)

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter

4-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability We will let different musical selections guide the way as we explore design and line, and transform the musical melody into an inspired pair of earrings or pendants.

The jewelry will be made with a Music CD set in a frame of fine silver. The techniques learned include cutting the CD, riveting, and polymer plate making to create your own textures.

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Jorvik Viking Purse New Wednesday, January 11 - February 15, 2023 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Eastern Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter 6-week group sessions • 60 min. Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting All levels of ability Learn to make your own patterns and designs for embellishing the front and back panels of your Silver Metal Clay Purse using photopolymer plates. They will then be hinged with all-in-one “castle” knuckles and riveted together. Add supple sheepskin leather and attach it to form the clever purse bag. In the final step, a chain is threaded through the leather to make a functional Silver purse. ___________________________________________________________


Carving and Sculpting in Metal Clay 4 Spots

Thursday, January 12 - February 23, 2023 (ship Feb 9)

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM, Eastern

Convert to the time in your area: https://dateful.com/time-zone-converter 6-week group sessions • 60 min.

Live & Interactive on Go to Meeting

All levels of ability Take it to the next Dimension by learning how to create 2 and 3-dimensional jewelry pieces and studying how to convert your ideas, into a dimensional form using the additive and deductive process for creating depth; learning various carving, refining, and detailing methods; and the best tools and methods for each process.

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