I attempted to post this a few days ago but it seems to have gotten
lost in the ether, so here goes again -
I have been working in sterling silver for many years: at least 50%
of my work involves making beads, from about ?" diameter to around
1?". Now I would like to have a crack at using Argentium in my work,
and having studied most of the literature out there about working
with Argentium, I have a couple of questions for all you experienced
Argentium users. My questions are:
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. In the literature I have read, the
temperatures range from 580?F/290?C for 2 hours, to 428?F/220?C for
generally 3 hours, but once or twice for 16 hours, with the latter
combination being cited as the optimum for the best GeO? deposit for
tarnish resistance. I appreciate that experimentation over the years
will probably have changed things from Argentium's beginnings, so
what is the optimum time and temperature in the most latest thinking?
Thanks guys - I love this forum! A happy and successful 2016 to all.
Janet in SW Alberta, Canada
Hi Janet; I'm in Yarmouth Nova Scotia. I had worked with argentium
for several years. I had difficulty casting it. Many of the castings
were very brittle. A year or so I switched to Sterlium plus from
Stuller. In my opinion, this product is far superior to argentium. I
have never had a poor casting from Sterlium plus.
Janet- If you are not "married" to the idea of Argentium, you might
want to try Continuum silver. It does not slump like Argentium and
fuses beautifully. I really like to use IT high temp solder on. It.
To heat harden Continuum heat to 800 F for 30 min. and quench. It
gets as hard as 14 kt w/g.
Have fun and make lots of beads and jewelry.
I am from Halifax, =C2=A0NS, I worked with argentium but never try to
cast it, what is Sterlium, does this work like silver?
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.
if you get in fast with the heat on Argentium you should have no
problems but some experiments may be needed.
Argentium is much brighter and lower tarnish than continuum silver.
If you read the specs Argentium is superior to all other silver
alloys. Also Argentium international have a tech desk, they will help
with any tech questions.
all the best
I have taught casting for a many years and used to teach with
Argentium as well as sterling when I was with Revere Academy in San
Francisco. This photo is of castings done the three alloys left to
right: Argentium Pro, Sterlium, and Continuum.
This photo is of the castings after sitting on the shelf for 5
years. I never had problems with the Argentium being brittle, but a
friend of mine did once due to the fact they quenched the flask too
early. I also think they had the flask too cool when they did the
casting. The sterlium was the closest to Argentium in color and the
Continuum has tarnished the worst (and is quite expensive). I tested
at least 8 different anti-tarnish alloys and found that I like the
Argentium the best. I have found that if there were problems with
the Argentium, it was due to "operator error" and not the metal.
had my first piece of Argentium, a ring, come back with very severe
tarnish. Not had this happen in 18 months of using it. The lady
turned it black in a week. She turns sterling black in a couple of
days. Will pickle heat harden and then raise the germanium for a few
hours at 100 C. then see what happens.
all the best
When I had problems with casting Argentium I found as much info on
the web as I could and followed the instructions precisely. I let the
flasks stand for at least half an hour after casting. Still had
problem with brittleness. The recommended flask temps for sterlium
are higher and you don't have to leave it as long before quenching. I
have never had a poor casting with the sterlium. I've been casting
mostly gold for 28 years on average once a week. As far as I know,
sterlium is similar to Argentium. I personally found it easier to
cast, easier to solder and better to work with.
Yes, but after you pour your investment it has to cool for an hour
before putting it in water to remove.
I have been working with Argentium for more than 10 years. My work is
all built from sheet and wire fabrication. I use 22g sheet the most
for forming and do not find slumping a problem. The torch a bit more
cool and learning to heat at the point of connection and not heat the
whole object helps keep the slumping at bay.
Thanks for posting this. I was wondering about Sterilium.
Can't wait til you come back to
The Guilded Lynx!
Would tumbling with steel shot harden argentium?
I had a woman who, after only a couple of weeks of wearing her
sterling silver spinner ring I made, emailed me and complained it was
A few more weeks went by and she emailed me again, apologizing for
blaming the ring & saying I had used "shoddy materials". Turns out
she was using a soap which contained iodine. Sometimes it is not the
metal or the person reacting to the metal.
I do like Argentium. It will tarnish, albeit much more slowly than
standardSterling. When someone is experiencing such rapid tarnish, I
have to wonder what kind of chemical exposure is involved. Does the
lady use dandruff shampoo or a soap containing sulphur? How about a
hot tub (spa)? Badly balanced swimming pool? Is her water supplied
from a well - sometimes there are sulphur-rich contaminants in the
water. These thoughts are based on my experiences. No doubt others
can chime in with their ideas.
I have noted that Jo really likes the Continuum Sterling for setting
stones. It is touted as a tarnish-resistant silver alloy, so I
thought I'd get some to play with. Just yesterday I received a photo
standard Sterling. (She is my Guinea pig and has been wearing these
rings since Christmas.) The family had goneswimming at the
recreation center pool. The standard Sterling rings were tarnished,
while the Continuum ring remained bright and shiny! I'll be checking
with my other Guinea pig daughter for her experience with her
Judy in Kansas, whose daughters just love being Guinea pigs for
their mom's experiments.
Would tumbling with steel shot harden argentium?
Paul- Tumbling in stainless shot only hardens the surface a few
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Judy- Thanks for taking the plunge and trying Continuum. I so love a
good experiment. Especially when you can include unwitting family
I don't work for Stuller or receive any compensation from them of
any kind. I just love that particular metal.
I don't really care about the tarnish resistance so much as the
working properties and hardness. It is much slower to tarnish than
sterling but it still tarnishes with time. It is so much more stable
than Argentium and much more forgiving to work with. After kiln
hardening it is like 14 kt white gold. It also will oxidize
beautifully with liver of sulfur. See the attached black and white
diamond pin photo. Also note in the photo how nice it bead sets. My
sweetie Tim does all the bead setting in our house and loves to bead
set it better than platinum.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
When someone is experiencing such rapid tarnish, I have to wonder
what kind of chemical exposure is involved.
I have a couple of friends whose body chemistry turns silver black
in a day or two! Both have eco-friendly homes, both on well water
and natural soaps etc.
A chemistry teacher friend showed a group of us a neat trick. how
gold will leave a black mark when rubbed on the cheek of a woman
capable of child bearing while those women in menopause there was no
mark at all. Chemistry she says! :-)
So, I guess, my query would be: What is the proper finishing work
sequence when working with Argentium Sterling Silver?
You should be ok supporting the bottom half in a depression in a
soldering block, and soldering the two halves together. It gets a bit
more tricky if you are fusing because of the higher temperature
You can buy Argentium solder paste from Rio Grande, I have just had
some shipped to me in the UK, medium and easy, and it is fine, very
much like using sterling solder paste.
For hardening, Cynthia Eid has produced some detailed information
sheets which I am sure you can find by googling. I tend to do 2
hours at 220 degrees Celsius. If you are just whitening it is a lot