Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Faux Chrysoprase, Chalcedony and Translucent Polymer Clay Test Results

This Faux Chrysoprase and Fuchsia Chalcedony Necklace that I made from polymer clay is now available for sale at MelodyODesigns at Etsy
I love the look of mint green and fuchsia together. Considering that these colors are expected to be popular colors for spring and summer 2012, I decided to include them in my palette this season in the form of faux Chrysoprase (also known as Chrysophrase) and faux Fuchsia Chalcedony gemstones. They are made by hand from scratch using artist quality polymer clay. These two colors make me think of spring flowers and summer watermelon (not to mention pistachio nuts!)

In making the original prototype for the necklace I used Fimo Soft Translucent 014 as the neutral mixing base for the green chrysophrase, to which a a tiny amount of green and turquoise PREMO clay was added. I loved the sense of depth of the inclusions and plaquing with the Fimo Soft. Alas, the old Fimo Soft Trans is now discontinued and the new Fimo Effects 014 replacement is not the same formula and produces different results. In trying to find a permanent replacement for the Fimo Soft Trans to use in making faux chrysophrase I made dozens of samples over the span of a month, utilizing various brands, product lines, and vintages of translucent clays, trying to replicate the color and depth of my initial prototype necklace. I kept 29 of the best samples and I thought it might be interesting to show the results. Except for the three samples that are marked with color formula changes, all of the samples pictured below use an IDENTICAL COLOR FORMULA. The only variants are the brand/vintage of translucent clay and the curing temperature. My goal with the samples was to replicate the results achieved in an extra teardrop sample from my initial Fimo Soft necklace (marked with a red heart on the samples photo below).

Sample Test Result photos utilizing many brands and vintages of translucent polymer clay for making faux chrysophrase.

As a long time PREMO user I was surprised at my seeming inability to achieve sufficient plaquing in the two versions of PREMO Trans. I know that other people have reported success, but I have not yet figured out how, at least not when I WANT it to plaque. I seem to sometimes be able to get decent amounts when I DON'T want it to plaque!

I was amazed to see how much color variation there was even BEFORE curing just by changing the brand and vintage of the translucent base. The PREMO Frost (5317), and Fimo Effect produced a blue-green. The PREMO 5310, Fimo Classic, and Kato produced a yellow-green. What really blew me away was the EXTREMELY different color sample results between those I made from the old Fimo SoftTranslucent 014 in MY stash as compared to those made from the old Fimo Soft Trans 014 from Carolyn of CarolynsCreations (who generously gave up some of her clay stash so that I could make a 2nd necklace). Mine resulted in a lovely mint blue-green. Carolyn's resulted in a pretty yellow-green.

TEST RESULTS: The no longer available Fimo Soft (014) seems to have created the most visual depth, deep plaquing, and ability of the colored inclusions to delicately merge into the matrix. This was followed in order of increasing opaqueness by Fimo Effect, PREMO Trans (5310), PREMO Frost (5317, also known in the 2 oz size packages as PREMO White Translucent 5527), Fimo Classic (OO), and the nearly opaque Kato. I chose two Fimo Effect 014 samples as producing results that were the closest to my original Fimo Soft Trans prototype. They are grouped together and marked with a "BEST REPLACEMENT" with a yellow smiley face on the samples photo above.

To coax the most depth in the "fractured crackle" and plaquing out of the Fimo Effect samples, I initially froze the formed pieces and then immediately cured them in a pre-heated oven for a total of 30 minutes at decreasing degrees of heat:10 minutes at 290F., 10 minutes at 280F. and 10 minutes at 275F. The Fimo Effect Trans "winning sample" produced results that are not identical to those in my initial necklace#1, but it's still a winner. The old Fimo Soft Trans from Carolyn's stash produced very different results from the old Fimo Soft in my stash, but I think it will make a fine yellow-green jade sometime in the future.

For those readers who work with polymer clay and experience frustration trying to replicate the results with custom mixed colored clay formula recipes I have one more observation to share. In comparing the color of clay fresh out of the package of two 56g packages of Fimo Effect Translucent I noticed that there is clearly a difference in color, with one being slightly darker and slightly more yellow. I assume that the 8 digit number located away from the UPC code is the dye lot code, and the two packages have the identical code. Clearly, the results from custom mixing color formulas will vary if the neutral mixing base coming from the manufacturers isn't even identical.

FYI: The teardrop beads were created by starting with a carefully shaped and smoothed teardrop-shaped tinted polymer clay base bead. Tiny amounts of grated curls of colored clay (Raw Sienna and Ecru) were applied to the surface, one at a time, and then smeared into the surrounding area by hand to create the presence of small and realistic inclusions. The round faux chrysophrase beads were each also hand shaped and then inclusions were applied to the surface in a similar manner. Once the various components were cured, each was hand sanded with various grits of sandpaper (#360, #500, #1000, #2000, #4000) and then hand buffed, first using denim and then unbleached muslin.

I designed the following earrings to coordinate with the necklace (but they're not in my Etsy shop, please contact me if interested in purchasing.)

Coordinating earrings

Thanks go to Rob of Polymer Clay Express who patiently helped me understand the correlation between old and new stock numbers of both Fimo and PREMO trans, when the formulas changed, and how to identify the new formulas from the old in my stash.