Supporting a half sphere in a carved depression in a soldering
block is obviously easy, but given the tendency of Argentium to
slump when hot, how would I stop the top hemisphere from collapsing
when soldering or fusing the two half beads together? Or am I
bothered unnecessarily about this? Is paste solder available in
Argentium? And I am utterly confused about the times and
temperatures required for the hardening process.
Formed metal rarely slumps. A half sphere will not slump when
soldered unless severely overheated (severe meaning: to the point
that any silver would have a problem). I have found that 24
gauge/.5mm may slump a bit if I fuse two forms together, but 22
gauge/.65mm or thicker is fine if it is formed.
Yes, paste solder is available----that is my favorite method for
joining two formed parts to make a bead or hollow form.
You are correct that since Argentium Silver is fairly new, there are
continual discoveries, which makes it sometimes difficult to be sure
what is the latest and best info. The other reason for the different
times and temperatures that you mention is that they all work. The
options are offered because: #1: not everyone has a kiln or oven
that reaches 580F/290C, and #2: Metalsmiths have different needs and
goals, depending on what they make and what their goals are----for
instance, how important hardening is to them vs. how important
tarnish prevention is.
So, use the higher temperature for accomplishing the goal of
hardening most quickly. The lower temperatures also harden Argentium
Silver, but need a corresponding longer time.
Personally, I find that 2-3 hours at 450F/230C makes my work
adequately hard, AND tarnish-resistant.
For some people, tarnish resistance is THE most important thing. In
that case, it can be useful to know that the most durable Germanium
Oxide coating is created at 210 F(100 C) for 16 hours. Note the word
DURABLE in the previous sentence. Germanium Oxide, the layer that
prevents tarnish, is created at any temperature over freezing. I
think of it as a race between tarnish and the GeO2.
210F/100C is too low for hardening, so IF you want to do that,
you’ll want to harden first.
As with all metalsmithing, and all of life, different people do
things differently. I hope that his helps you decide how YOU want to
heat YOUR Argentium Silver.