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Argentium Anyone?


#1

I keep reading about how wonderful argentium is to use…but my experience is the opposite.

It was a nightmare, never fused, bezels kept falling off, and when eventually they did, my work looked terrible. It was expensive too, I bought a whole load of the stuff to try out, including all the special flux and solders.

I am a student, and have been making silver jewellery for about 6 or7 years…so I am not a newby. My teacher while an acknowledged silversmith who used to work with Malcolm Appleby, had never tried using Argentium. She really couldn’t help. We puzzled it out, I watched endless YouTube videos of soldering/fusing argentium. It was an unmitigated Disaster!!

First I tried scoring a groove in the long piece I had, to attach 2 wires on each edge with the idea of making a raised edge a bit like train tracks. What a palaver…some stuck/fused. Some lifted, and I ended up sawing through where the wires lifted. Making a flat notch and trying to set a bezel in the flat area. All materials were argentium. I used a special flux and argentium solder in the end and they seemed to stick…but only after I had resoldered the bezels about 6 times each and there were 6 or 7 bezels. So much extra work!!

Success fou!! But when I tried to fit these bezels with coral cabochons, the edges of the bezels were rock hard and would not push or fold in to keep the cabs in place. Sadly I ended up gluing the cabochons in place. It was a huge disappointment to say the least. The design is quite nice, and the combination of silver and coral is very pretty…and the whole thing was a very expensive mistake!! It made me disheartened. I am now left with a whole lot of sheet, wire and casting beads.

My decision is to persevere and try again, perhaps with a more simple design. Am I alone in this?


#2

Maybe you need more information than what’s available on utube.

Even after taking argentium classes with an instructor who was knowledgeable about argentium, I still found these videos by Cynthia Eid to be incredibly helpful:


#3

Where did you get your argentium? I only buy it from Rio Grande. Once several years ago I bought some from a local vendor in New Hampshire who got a batch from a place other than Rio and I had the same experience you are describing. I have always loved it and find it easy to work with so after I stopped blaming myself for having a bad soldering/fusing day, I went back to the store. It turned out the metal was a different formula not meant for jewelry. It was awful stuff. Both the vendor and I got our money back.


#4

Cynthia’s videos are great. This is an article on how to work with
argentium. My-T-Flux for soldering larger pieces, with the Argentium paste
solder for such things as jump rings. Here is the link:
https://www.riogrande.com/Content/Working-with-Argentium-Silver-Tips-Procedures-IS-pdf
.

Ginger


#5

Sorry, I accidentally bumped my keyboard before I finished everything. I
meant My-T-Flux is the flux that I use with Argentium solder. Other types
of fluxes have been known not to work as well with Argentium. I don’t use
any other form of solder except for Argentium in terms of sheet or wire. I
do use Argentium paste solder for small items like jump rings, and the
paste solder already has the flux in it.

Ginger


#6

I live in the UK, and all my stuff came from a major jewellery supplier called Cookson"s Gold. It’s a German jewellery company. They are in the Jewellery quarter in Birmingham and they supply everyone, so I am pretty sure they would not have sent me the wrong stuff or a bad batch.

Buying in the USA means you get hit with import duty and taxes and big postal costs, so it means I have to buy from UK suppliers. I am a student after all.

It was a disappointing experience and I do tend to make stuff that can be quite fiddly…so for my first use I probably should have tried a simple design and played more with the stuff. However, saying that if I had made it in regular sterling silver, it would more than likely have turned out right.

So I am a bit put off, and the more I read the more confused I have become. I tried soldering on a regular kiln brick and on compressed carbon, both didn’t work equally…neither was particularily good at fusing and I did melt a few bezels trying to get them to join with a base.

I watched the videos on the Rio Grande site quite a few times…so I worked out the heat colours, cooling and melting (over heating) points. Why should my bangle come out of the pickle as hard as anything? Most stuff gets annealed and is easy to work after annealing and pickling? So that was a worry. I just could not get the stuff to work for me, and while I am no expert, I am probably in the intermediate stage. More than a beginner. Someone I know raised a bowl in argentium without any problems, and perhaps I should try that…usually it’s done in Britannia silver over here. Britannia silver is also 935. I don’t know if you have that in the States. Thanks for your response


#7

I have been using Argentium Sterling Silver for about 7 years now. Didn’t
watch any videos nor did I take a class. It does work completely different
from sterling, it is more like working with fine silver. I just practised,
practised, practised. I love it for chain making & anything involving wire.
I do use regular flux & argentium solder on occasion, but mostly I fuse it.
For rings, bangles, large pieces, bezel making, etc., I stick with good old
sterling silver. I buy my Argentium from Rio Grande. Don’t get discouraged,
just keep on practising.


#8

So I did watch the videos on the Rio Grande site…without much luck. My stuff didn’t work as it should have. I will continue on, it’s the Easter break at the moment.

We also tried heating the casting grain, and again it did not work well for cuttlefish casting. It’s been a real disappointment.

I have decided to try the same thing, bangle with coral cabs set on it, in sterling silver, and compare.

My course continues in 2 weeks time and I will continue to leave my progress reports.


#9

Inverdon77
I have been teaching workshops in the UK and various countries around Europe. I have not seen the results you are experiencing. I would want to know what torch you are using. I seldom solder anything as Argentium is a dream to fuse with if you know how. The clasp below is made using NO SOLDER! All fused and the bezel is 0.5mm thick.


For bezels, we are using 0.5mm Argentium with no- problems. We use setting punches and not bezel pusher or rocker. My guess is that you are not going hot enough. If there is any “brown flux” present, you defiantly didn’t go hot enough. I will be teaching a number of workshops in the UK and Europe this summer. This is pictures of work from one of my students of the first week class.
Ronda


#10

Hi Ursula,
Im surprised your having problems with argentium from Cookson Gold, A bit of history, they were Johnson Matthey the most respected precious metal suppliers to the trade for well over 100 yrs and are still in fact the same Co underneath, despite being owned now by a German conglomerate
.Furthermore ive been buying from them now for 50 yrs and do have some clout over them in their B,ham main depot in the Jewellery quarter. I buy sterling in kilos! from them!!.
I would be very surprised if the metal was faulty ie not up to spec.
So heres an offer for you. Im down in Dorset Nr Swanage, been at this game for 50 yrs and have the means to run controlled trials with some samples of your argentium then when Ive the results we can get back to CG and take them to task if needs be for faulty material. Results withing 2 days of getting your metal to me. It will all be returned with a written report at no cost to you. I had occasion to return some sterling drawn seamless tube recently that was not to size as promised in their specs. Refund no problem. so at the end of the day you can return it for a full refund in any case under their 30 days warranty. if my memory serves me right.
Mail me off list for my contact details so I could help you further.
Ted


#11

Ronda, I have been a fan of your work for many years watching the
progression of Argentium. I too have been having trouble fusing or
soldering 20g sheet with heavy bezel 1.5mm for bracelet.I use acetylene,
oxygen.I wonder why I don’t see much of big soldered pieces in tutorials,is
that because it is so hard to do?


#12

I would not blame Cooksons at all. Everything I have ordered from them has been top notch, from tools to wire.

But I am uncertain as to why my piece did not work out and I had so many problems…perhaps it is the torch, we use at college (Gray’s School of Art part of RGU) or the ones we use at another class I attend taught by the same teacher. I found if the piece got too hot it just slumped/melted, like reticulation.

I also thought that when the solder was running, that nice shiney silver colour against the salmon, should be an indicator that the pieces had soldered together. but sometimes the bezel just dropped off when my bangle was cooled and pickled. And yes, I waited before quenching it. My teacher was also puzzled, but having not used the metal, she did not have a background of experience with it to guide me.

At the end I was so frustrated, and glued my cabs into the bezels…it was part of my work exhibits in our exhibition at Gray’s. I was not happy as the piece is a mess, not like my other work. I tried setting the cabs using traditional tools but the metal just would not budge. It was too late to change anything. I filed a bevelled edge and popped the cabs in.

I am grateful for all the advice. Thank you all. I don’t believe there is a problem with the metal I bought, perhaps just inexperience on my part. I will soldier on and see how it progresses.


#13

Thanks Rhonda for your reply. The pieces certainly look good in your photos.

I was using a 1mm or 1.2mm strip about 23 cms long and about 1cm wide, and .5mm wire. Since it was a bangle the wires lay lengthwise running along the sides of the base. I had used a scorer to make a groove about 3 mm in from the edges and laid my wire in the groove.

Some areas fused without problems but others just lifted, attached by the parts that had been successful, and refused to reconnect afterwards. So I cut them out. It spoiled my original design. But failure in one area can lead to a good thing. Lemons and lemonade comes to mind. Ever optimistic!

So I tried to arrange the areas where I had cut the sections of wire out in an equidistant pattern around the bangle, flattened those areas and curved the bits between. I measured my cabs (4mm) and made bezels with flattened (rolled) bits of argentium wire. These were to go on the flat bits not the curved areas. So often they looked like they were fixed only to fall off after quenching and pickling. I did use a brass brush and soapy water to clean the piece, after the pickle.

I think I ended up with 7 bezels but I must have made 10 or 12 before I was finished. Now the bezels seemed to fuse together in a circle quite happily. But they did not want to attach to my base. They did in the end but not without a struggle.

It’s been an expensive learning curve, but having watched the videos where it also seemed so simple,I bought enough to make 3 bangles and then some! I was truly disappointed. No doubt the fault is mine. I just wanted help and advice. Which lots of people have been very generous to advise me. H


#14

Well, Ursula, it looks as tho its amateurs teaching beginners floundering around not getting anywhere. so be it, however, im an industrial production business not a one man bench jeweller so have the expertise to resolve this sort of problem.
i just hate to see beginners losing faith in their chosen passion.
the answers are there you just need to talk to those who have them.
Ted.


#15

6 posts were split to a new topic: Fabricating Hoop Earrings with Snap Closure


#18

I’m ordered argentium directly from the company in London.
Friendly people and always helpfull in any case.
I’ve the sam trouble with importing goods from the US …taxes are killing me!

I don’t have problems with argentium but if something appears like being a trouble I suggest calling the company OR get in contact with Charles Allenden. He helped me a lot in the beginning.
charles@argentium.com

Maybe he can be of any help for you.
If not, he will direct you to a proper person.

All the best and don’t give up!


#19

In for a penny in for a pound, so lets have one more go? do you have access to a rolling mill? which has rolls to go down to .5mm square wire ? if so put your round wire through that to give you a flat surface to put onto your strip. .Use 2 mini snap clamps to hold the wire to the strip at each end tightly, then bend the strip to tighten it to the strip. with past solder in between first of course. then heat with a soft say 1/2in neutral oxy propane flame to get it to flow with of course the right flux.
cool ,unclip, flatten it out then use a half round punch to dome the top of the wire to a round shape.
youll need to make this yourself. For this soft metal you could use a 6in nail with the point cut off , then a half round groove filed into the end. polish and away you go.
Its really down to technique. Practice on some copper strip and wire to get the hang of it BEFORE you pick up the expensive metal!!. How often does a musician practice a piece before interpreting it
as the composer wanted?
Ted.


#20

I have taken Argentium classes with both Ronda Coryell and Cynthia Eid. I remember that at least one of them said that Argentium works more like gold than sterling silver, so perhaps an instructor familiar with Sterling but not Argentium is not the best teacher.

Never tried a bezel in Argentium - I prefer a fine silver bezel paste soldered to an Argentium back, without any flux. I also use My-T-Flux occasionally. I get much better results with paste solder than sheet solder. And even though Argentium fuses, you do not want to begin by fusing a very large piece to a small one. Begin by practicing with pieces of more or less the same size.

Not sure I understand why you are making grooves - is it a design element?

Mary Partlan
Cinzilla Design


#21

Argentium has a learning curve. I went into it cold, without any real knowledge. After I broke my first piece lifting it too soon after soldering, I learned to just leave it alone after soldering, letting it air-cool for a few minutes or more. As for soldering, I know T-Flux or Gelflux is the recommended flux, but I get more consistent results with my good old Handy Flux or Grifflux. I solder or fuse on a Solderite pad - that’s the best soldering surface for Argentium. I can fuse without any flux easily. Apart from a few quickie lessons from Cindy Eid, a co-faculty member, I got the hang of Argentium. I would use Argentium in jobs where you can solder or fuse flat, or with support to keep silver from slumping. Cindy gave me one tip that I pass on as much as I can. Take a black Sharpie, scribble a few lines on the Argentium and then when annealing, as soon as the black disappears, the Argentium is annealed.
I recommend not doing any projects, but just play with the silver. When you go in to do a particular job with a new material, expecting it to behave the way you are used to, you are going to frustrate the hell out of yourself. Just play with the Argentium. Fuse it, slump it, melt it, shove a bunch of it together and just practice fusing. Once you get the hang of it and how it behaves, then you can try doing your project again. I’ve seen that happen too many times - people go in with a set expectation of their project and then are very frustrated when it doesn’t come out the way they want it. As a teacher, slow down, PLAY with the Argentium first. That’s what I did. I don’t use it much but a lot for chainmaking when I can fuse with no solder seams to worry about.


#22

Thanks, I will.