Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Argentium or sterling?


#1

When hand fabricating jewelry has argentium silver taken sterling
silvers place? Does one have benifit over the other with hand
fabrication? Mark in CT.


#2
When hand fabricating jewelry has argentium silver taken sterling
silvers place? Does one have benifit over the other with hand
fabrication? Mark in CT. 

I only do hand-fabrication. My experience with argentium has been
negative. Multiple heating, which is unavoidable in
hand-fabrication, bring to the surface Germanium layer which is
interfering with soldering. Joints look like they have been soldered,
but they do not have strength and any other properties that properly
soldered joint should have.

When I released my DVD “Eternity Ring”, I have had a lot of feedback
that ring cannot be completed. At last stages, previously soldered
joints were reflowing and causing a lot of troubles. Even if one get
past it, during setting joints were parting, rendering the whole
work a waste of time. It turned out that each and every time they
were using argentium silver. Switching to regular sterling solved all
the problems.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#3

Hello Mark,

Speaking only for myself, when I order sterling, I order Argentium
(AS)… IF what I want is available in that metal. I have a lot of
regular sterling that I am using up, and I have used both alloys on
the same piece without problem. One does need to be aware of AS
limitations when soldering though.

It seems to me that flatware and hollow ware should now be fashioned
from AS. NO one likes polishing sterling, and the tarnish-resistance
property would make a sterling tea set much more attractive. At
least my two daughters did not register sterling pieces because they
didn’t want the tedious chore of polishing!

Judy in Kansas, where the spring-like weather beckons, but must be
resisted in favor of the torch.


#4
When hand fabricating jewelry has argentium silver taken sterling
silvers place? Does one have benifit over the other with hand
fabrication? 

When to use Argentium:

Tarnish resistance is primary importance

Ease of fusing to sterling, copper, FS, or argentium ( as compared
to fusing FS or soldering)

When to use traditional sterling:

If the metal might slump during fabrication (Argentium as a tendency
to slump at higher temps)


#5

Mark,

Many of my students work with silver because of its low price and
ease of fabrication as well as casting. Traditional sterling, alloyed
with copper, has many drawbacks, mostly because of its fire-scale and
high tarnish properties. I don’t recommend this copper alloyed
sterling to my students, and I don’t work with it myself.

Argentium is a copper alloyed sterling which has a minute amount of
germanium added, which forms a surface barrier to fire scale and
tarnish on the finished work. It also imparts an amazing ability to
fuse to itself. These make for excellent qualities, except for the
extreme fragility it has when hot. As long as you don’t try to move
it when hot, like when annealing or soldering ( or fusing) it works
great. My students working with lots of wire for chain links love the
way Argentium balls up and fuses.

Another sterling alloy we use lots of in our studio is one called
S57NA, which is available through United Precious Metals. They also
sell the S57NA alloyed sterling as sheet and wire stock, too. We like
the S57NA sterling because it has minimal fire-scale and tarnish
qualities, and also is quite stable and strong when hot. I fused some
small 20 ga. jump rings made with S57NA sterling wire last week, and
I was unable to see the fused joint afterwards.

There will be many opinions expressed here on this forum about the
advantages and drawbacks of traditional sterling, Argentium, and the
S57NA Sterling, as everyone has their own preference. I can find many
advantages to both the Argentium and the S57NA sterling, but very few
for the traditional sterling.

Jay Whaley


#6

Argentium is not a replacement for standard sterling, it is an
additional alloy that has some useful properties and some drawbacks.
Far and away its greatest strength is the lack of firescale
formation when heating it for soldering or annealing. It has some
tarnish resistance but it definitely will tarnish (I have some very
tarnished sheet in my safe left over from my experiments with it). It
fuses and welds nicely. It is very hot short and will fracture if
moved while at soldering temperatures.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#7

I switched to Argentium 2 years ago because of its many better
characteristics for fabrication-

it solders easier, because of its inherent non-tarnishing, oxides
during soldering aren’t an issue, and pickle is hardly required.

it fuses easily-I use this all the time in chain making-I fuse jump
rings, so much faster than soldering

it is quite malleable, so hammering out spheres and such aren’t a
problem. I feel like I anneal less often than with ordinary
sterling.

it stays brighter longer in the showcase, and the tarnish you do get
(after a year or two) comes off more easily

I like it that you can harden it in a toaster over (I use 90m at max
temperature after thoroughly annealing)

It also casts very well.

It’s not perfect-it tends to collapse under any forces when at
soldering temperatures, so your piece has to be well supported. This
is not a big issue during assembly. I do sometimes find it a problem
when taking things apart-you can’t usually yank at a red hot piece of
Argentium without easily breaking it. Also, use the Argentium
solders-Argentium operates at slightly lower temperatures than
standard sterling.

I would never switch back to standard sterling.

I hope that helps.
Joris
(My work) http://www.jorisart.com/jewelry


#8

hi Mark–

I’m a hand fabricator that mostly works in traditional sterling and
occasionally in argentium…

i see no great benefits in the material with 2 exceptions.

1- tarnish resistance (if properly treated)

2-fusibility

thats about it- in fact of beginners- i do not recommend argentium
because it is more difficult to solder than traditional sterling…
it is still a relatively new product and has a lot of zealots that
tout its virtures many of them are funded by the agentium
industry… i’m sure they will come out on the board and extoll its
virtues…

hope this helps,
Mark in RI


#9

Mark, when I started I had barely begun using sterling when I was
introduced to Argentium. I still consider myself in the novice to
intermediate category, but my personal observations of the
differences between them are:

  • Sawing regular sterling is a bit easier than Argentium

  • Argentium needs a smaller saw blade (3/0 or 4/0 for 20-22 gauge
    sheet, dead soft)

  • Argentium can fuse, regular sterling cannot, giving you an extra
    capability with Argentium that might be important in making your
    piece

  • Argentium paste solder seems to work better (melt easier) for me
    than Argentium wire solder (have never tried using regular sterling
    solder on Argentium)

  • Filing, pickle, cleaning, tumbling, Liver of Sulphur patina all
    seem the same, keeping in mind the slightly different color of
    Argentium

Hope this helps,

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs


#10

Mark,

I am a certified Master Bench Jeweler and have my degree in Art
Education. My specialty is 22k granulation which is an ancient
technique requiring fusing and fabricating with no solder and dates
back to the Etruscans. It incorporates fabricating without solders by
fusing. I taught granulation in fine silver, but it was only a means
to lead you into working with 22k gold. I never worked in Sterling
Silver. I never liked it. Now, most of my work incorporates high
karat gold and Argentium.

At first, I was amazed how much Argentium acted like 22k gold in its
fusibility and malleability. My world revolved around 22k gold
granulation, I taught in fine silver in order to lead into working
with gold. Sterling silver was not a metal in my palate, as I never
liked the firescale or the way it tarnished, and it certainly didn’t
fuse the way I needed. I would never add 22k or diamonds and
sapphires to sterling silver in my work. Now that I have found
Argentium Silver, it has changed my world of granulation and fusing.
Argentium fuses so easily; it still continues to 93WOW94 me. With
the global market of gold being what it is, gold-on-gold granulation
is almost a thing of the past, while white metals are becoming more
popular. I find the color contrast of the whiteness of Argentium and
the bold, rich yellow of 22k alluring and dramatic.20

Since gold has more than tripled in the past couple of years, the
jewelry world market is changing and new avenues must be pursued. I
feel that Argentium is to sterling as 18k is to 14k: it is a finer
metal and each has its own characteristics. My students love the
malleability and the fusing properties of this amazing metal. They
start to refer to Sterling as the “S-Word”.

I have now devoted my time to opening a school of Argentium in
Austin, TX. We teach from basics through advanced fabrications with
Argentium as our metal of choice. I have tested over 8 different
tarnish resistant alloys and have not found even one that can fuse as
beautifully as Argentium. If I could, it would give my students more
choices. I found a few that would fuse a bit, but not in the same
manner and all soldered well enough. I love the med-hard Argentium
wire solders that Rio Grande carries.20

Ronda Coryell
jewelrystudiesintl.com


#11

Ronda:

I am trying to find someone who has worked with Argentium round wire
and makes chain maille. My questions have to do with the finished
jump rings, the strength, ability to hold a secure connection with
out solder, and so on. Could you put me in touch with someone who has
worked with chain maille and Argentium.

Many thanks.
Ruth Mary


#12

Oh, thank you! I thought I was losing it, finding weak or compromised
joints in my pieces. All of my work involves multiple soldering
procedures. I had no idea the germanium could weaken a previously
secure joint. I’d learned not to touch/poke argentium when hot, but I
don’t see a way around the progressive issue with repeated soldering
of argentium. I guess I’ll either try the other alloy mentioned here
or see if I can find a reliable source of platinum silver. ABI metals
in Ca was my source for plat. Silver, but they were reluctant to
continue making sheet. I’ll check back with them. Funny timing on
this, I’ve been really busy and not opening Orchid for a couple of
weeks. Decided to take a peek again and find something hugely
relevant for me.

Marianne
Marianne Hunter
http://www.hunter-studios.com


#13
I am a certified Master Bench Jeweler and have my degree in Art
Education. My specialty is 22k granulation which is an ancient
technique requiring fusing and fabricating with no solder and
dates back to the Etruscans. It incorporates fabricating without
solders by fusing. I taught granulation in fine silver, but it was
only a means to lead you into working with 22k gold. I never worked
in Sterling Silver. I never liked it. Now, most of my work
incorporates high karat gold and Argentium. 

I hate to disagree with such esteemed professional, but granulation
is based on soldering and not fusing. I know that it is not obvious,
but if technique of granulation understood completely, the soldering
becomes self-evident.

Once this simple fact is understood, granulation can be done on any
precious metal alloy of almost any composition. The easiest way to do
granulation is 24k gold, and 22k is not far behind. 9k gold would be
the hardest. The fact that argentium behaves as 22k gold during
granulation is an indictment of the metal, and not the praise. The
last thing one wants in hand fabrication is parts easily sticking to
each other.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14

Hi Jay,

Another sterling alloy we use lots of in our studio is one called
S57NA, which is available through United Precious Metals. They
also sell the S57NA alloyed sterling as sheet and wire stock, too.
We like the S57NA sterling because it has minimal fire-scale and
tarnish qualities, and also is quite stable and strong when hot. 

Have you found any downside to S57NA? Anyone else like/dislike it? I
looked at the United Prec Metals site to consider their tarnish
resistant silver alloy. I also looked at their refining info which
seemed really lacking compared to DH Fell, which I’ve been using. I
really like the refining calculator Fell has online, so you can fill
out a form for lots in different karats and metals and see what your
refining rate of return in pure gold/silver etc will be. It also
shows how larger lots change the rate of return. Didn’t see anything
like that w/ United. Did I miss something?

Marianne
Marianne Hunter
http://www.hunter-studios.com


#15

Back to plain old sterling for me. I tried the argentium and as long
as I just did a simple job of soldering, there were no problems.
However, as much of my work involves multiple solderings, I ran into
all sorts of difficulties. The earlier solderings fell apart. My
attempt to pin things together (something I never had to do with
sterling), also met with disaster I did not touch them after
soldering until they were cold. Oops. They fell apart. Another piece
that I thought had fully fused (this time I tried fusing, not
soldering), came apart. Worse yet, part of the piece had developed a
crack.

A friend made a lovely argentium silver dragon fly, only to have one
of the wings fall off. This happened during a show, and she was
grateful that she was the one handling it at the time, and not a
prospective customer. It did not fall apart at the solder joint, but
developed a crack about 5mm from the solder joint.

I know that many use it, and have no problems, but for me, I find it
easier to deal with a bit of tarnish, than to have things fall apart.
Between shows I store my silver pieces in air tight zip lock bags,
and to my delight have not had and tarnish problems.

Alma


#16
I do not recommend argentium because it is more difficult to
solder than traditional sterling...

I disagree with this opinion. To me, it is easier for beginners to
learn to solder, because it works more the way the beginner
intuitively expects: To solder AS you heat the area where the solder
is, and then work your way along the joint. This is instead of the
"heat the whole piece of metal" idea that we usually use when
teaching how to solder copper alloys and traditional sterling silver.
Also, the beginner does not need to learn how to prevent or remove
firescale, allowing them to work on learning other things.

it.... has a lot of zealots that tout its virtues many of them are
funded by the Argentium industry... I'm sure they will come out on
the board and extol its virtues... 

I did not respond to the original post, as I figured that most
Orchid “regulars” already know that I prefer Argentium Silver over
other sterling alloys. However, I am disturbed by this implication
that the people who like this metal are funded to talk about it.
Please be careful about making assumptions and leaping to
conclusions. I doubt that the people you are imagining are funded are
being paid, since I know that I am not paid by Argentium Silver,
International, nor by any of the distributors of AS. I simply think
that it is a marvelous metal that has a lot of virtues, so I want to
share what I know about it when someone is interested in my help or
opinion. Since it does have different working properties, I do try
to hel= p people understand how to be successful when soldering,
fusing, etc. I answer a lot more unsolicited email questions
off-Orchid than on Orchid. I don’t receive any pay for being helpful
to these people who ask me questions.

I think that it is wonderful that there are now so many different
silver alloys to choose from. Each has its advantages and
disadvantages. What works well for one person is different from
another. That’s what makes our work interesting, and makes life
exciting.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#17

I prefer sterling, although I do like Argentium for little balls and
what not. The reason I prefer sterling is really the color.
Argentium looks “cold” to me because it is so,so white. I love the
color of sterling, so I stick to that. I will say that Argentium
takes a beautiful LOS finish, though.

Mary Ferrulli Barker
www.pianetajewelry.com


#18

Hello again,

I forgot to mention my favorite characteristics of AS. It does not
work-harden as quickly as standard sterling - very helpful when
weaving wire to make chain. When soldering, it is not necessary to
bring the entire piece up to soldering temperature (as is the case
with standard sterling). Soldering/brazing AS can be handled much as
is done with gold. IOW, the torch can be directed to the joint. I
love how it fuses!

Judy in Kansas, where the flower beds have been cleaned up. Now for a
good rain


#19

Argentium or Sterling? A few years ago, as a new but adult jewelry
student, I found my teachers were negatively disposed to using
Argentium. It’s understandable. A teacher is supposed to be an
authority and it’s embarrassing to have an alloy that doesn’t behave
as one expects, especially in class. Call me bull-headed, but I saw
the qualities of Argentium as being positive sales tools, and saw no
difference as a novice learning how to control this alloy over
another, with the exception that I couldn’t find a teacher and had to
figure it out with the help of the Internet.

What is frustrating to the beginner is that most written instructions
still assume one is using traditional sterling, and Noooo.they don’t
work the same, especially when hot. Fortunately, now there are
teachers, DVDs, and even schools that focus on this alloy and may
even be funded, as someone suggested, by the Argentium industry.
Thank goodness for them! I’m glad to have learned to handle both
traditional and Argentium sterling (and am still learning), but
givena preference, I’ll take Argentium because, among other things, I
love to wear it. –

M. Quinnan WhittleCopperplate Etchings and Silver Jewelry


#20
I am trying to find someone who has worked with Argentium round
wire and makes chain maille. 

I use Argentium wire all the time, and that is what I supply to my
students. It works great, and has a wonderful advantage over regular
sterling in that it is very easy to fuse.

Cheers.
John Fetvedt
www.bijoux-de-terre.com