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Argentium sterling tarnish


#1

Hi all. The previous thread that touched on this subject petered
out, so I’m starting another one.

I’ve been using Argentium wire to make hoop earrings, mostly for my
Etsy shop. I don’t use any heat, so firescale is not an issue for
me. My only goal is to reduce the upkeep for my customers, and
perhaps give myself a little competitive advantage. I’ve been
actively promoting the “anti-tarnish” benefits of Argentium, worth
the small additional expense. However, I don’t know if that drives
any sales or not.

Then I got an email from a customer asking about a yellowish tinge.
And then came the comments from Jim Binnion and others reporting
similar experiences. So today I called Hauser & Miller, who supplied
the wire I’m using, and talked to one of their long-time guys. He
told me that he has heard reports of Argentium tarnishing faster
than sterling! Wha?! How can this be? When I described what I was
making, he suggested sticking with regular sterling. Since I had
just received a new batch of wire, and since Argentium is all over
my Etsy shop, this was bad news/good news.

Good news: I could switch back to sterling, leave prices the same,
and keep an extra little slice for me. And I’d have more flexible
options in purchasing material. Also potentially good is discovering
earlier rather than later that Argentium is worse for my needs and
my customer’s satisfaction. Bad is having to rewrite everything and
effectively do a 180 on my silver recommendations- not a public
relations plus. But I’d have to keep promoting it until I run out of
Argentium, generating a bit of ethical angst.

So, all you Argentium mavens, what do you think? If ALL I care about
is tarnish resistance in the field, which is my best bet, Argentium
or regular sterling? Thanks!

Allan
www.silvermason.com


#2

I have never used argentium, not having been able to buy it in the
UK, but I did try Brilliante, which is Cookson’s answer to agentium.
Aside from hating the way the wire behaves under heat; I was
surprised to find that a couple of rings I made from it turned
yellowish colour - not the losing the shine and dulling I associate
with early stages of tarnish in sterling, but an actual yellowish
tinge. Still relatively shiny, but yellow. Very easy to rub off,
having said that.

But I’ve stuck to sterling since.

sophie
www.duckduckgoosestuff.co.uk


#3

I’ve followed the discussion over the last year about yellowing
Argentium…

…don’t know what to say, as hard as I look around the shop, new
and old stock, old experiments, weave variations that didn’t work,
all my chain work from the last 5 years, I can’t find/see “yellow” in
any of the AS material I have…I use only dead soft, round AS wire,
24-10 awg. Finishing? Simple and straight forward, after coiling and
cutting my jumprings, weaving a chain, I tumble with a light
abrasive plastic pyramid media for 4-6hrs, then a few hrs with
stainless shot, Super Sunsheen burnishing liquid… all my supplies
these days are from Rio… just trying to cover the possible
variations in finishing procedure that I’m doing vs. others that are
getting the yellow.Like I said, even wire stock that has been sitting
on the shelf for 2+ years isn’t tarnished or yellow, and there is a
ton of different AS wire from different batches, earlier stock from a
few different suppliers, back as far as 5 years, I can’t find any AS
wire that I would call “off”… just don’t know what to say or
suggest.There are a multitude of variables in finishing technique as
well as products, and I guess I would start there, after I check the
supplier and the fabricator they gettheir stock from… I would hope
with a bit of visibility here, the conversation can lead to
identifying some of the issues that are causing the yellow
finish/tarnish… I actually wish I had some yellow AS, so I could
work with maybe how or if the finish/tarnish is reproducible.

Have to say, I love my Argentium… couldn’t ask for a silkier, more
brilliant finish in my chain jewelry.

Charlie Wyckoff
Klamath Falls, Oregon
www.charlieschaincraft.com


#4

First and foremost… Argentium is not fairly described as “anti
tarnish”. It is in fact tarnish resistant. The term "anti tarnish"
implies that it will not tarnish at all. The use of liver of sulphur
would not be possible if the Argentium sterling silver did not
tarnish when exposed to sulphur. The problem is the general use of
the English language. The use of “anti ‘whatever’” unfairly implies
that the product will not ‘whatever’ at all. A correct use of the
word may not really mean what we generally perceive it to mean.
However we must work with the language as it is used, not as it
should be used. It may be helpful to avoid the use of “anti”.

Second… Allan, you say very clearly that you do not use any heat.
If you are not even heat treating the material you are not bringing
up the tarnish resistance. A simple treatment in an ordinary oven is
all that is needed.

I have become alarmed at the misabout Argentium. Some
people who have not taken the time to learn about it are working with
it. They then are creating misconceptions and products that could be
better.

There is a responsibility for a crafts person to know what they are
doing. He or she may be working with titanium, platinum, high nickel
white gold alloys, or one of the tarnish resistant sterling silver
alloys. In each case the working characteristics is different and to
be a skilled crafts person there is a need for knowledge. A lack of
knowledge and the use of proper technique may produce a product that
is substandard. As an example, if a crafts person worked with welding
platinum on a charcoal block then the platinum was not workable
afterwards, the material is not to blame, the poor knowledge of the
material is. The crafts person is substandard as a result of a lack
of skills.

The purpose of this post should not be about how to work with
Argentium. There is all of the needed available. I can
tell you about my very good success working with Argentium, I am a
VERY big fan. For me to go on at length about my success may appear
to be a promotion for it. I do not want to be a preacher. However, if
you work with and sell a product you have a responsibility to work
with it properly. If you are selling a material that you have not
worked with fully and have not taking the step to improve the tarnish
resistance for your customer, the work has not been finished. Then if
your promotion of the material is at least a bit misleading you are
not giving your customer the best that you can.

I will say that I know that there is a substantial difference
between the ability of Argentium to resist tarnishing before and
after heat treating. (the tarnish resistance can come from working it
with a torch)

It would be interesting to hear from Hauser & Miller to expand upon
what their experience is.

The last paragraph asks "If ALL I care about is tarnish resistance
in the field, which is my best bet, Argentium or regular sterling? ".
My simple answer is… my experience shows that when worked with
skill Argentium is tarnish resistant. I believe then that Argentium
is your best bet for what you are seeking.

Regards.
Franklin


#5

Allan,

You are hopefully aware that there are more options for sterling
silver than just Argentium or regular copper-alloyed sterling,
right?? I for one am a huge fan of United Precious Metals’ S88
sterling. Very low tarnish or fire scale, great white color, clean
castings with very little oxidation, easy to draw and roll, etc. The
only problem is that it is not, at this time, available in sheet and
wire form.

My students and I make all our own wire and sheet, and we think the
S88 is great stuff.

Call up the tech guys at United, and they can talk to you about the
other sterling alloy options they have, including a special Germanium
alloy they claim works better than Argentium, although I haven’t
tried it yet. United is good about sending out samples if you want to
try anything out. I’m no fan of traditional copper-alloyed sterling,
and Argentium has some fabricating quirks I don’t like, but there are
other great options out there! Experiment!!

Jay Whaley


#6

Hi Allan;

Then I got an email from a customer asking about a yellowish
tinge. 

I don’t do much in silver, mostly gold, but I’ve had two customers
come back in the last month with rings I’ve cast in Argentium that
were turning their fingers black. It’s been a while since I’ve used
the stuff, but I don’t remember having that problem. There are other
de-ox silver on the market, and I’m making the switch. I did
everything by the book, including heating the finished piece for
20-45 minutes in a 250 degree oven. I’ve just thought there was
something I didn’t do right in the casting sequence.

David L. Huffman


#7

Dear Allan,

I’ve used argentium for a couple of years now to make some
inexpensive pierced disks for my art shows. The only soldering I do
is to put a loop on the top. Argentium gave me some fits to start
with- hot, humid outdoor art shows turned my disks a very yellowish
color- it would happen in a single day sometimes, depending on the
weather. I eliminated this problem by baking my finished product in
my oven in a pyrex dish at 450 degrees for half an hour, then
polishing each disk with a Goddard’s cloth. Sometimes coming out of
the oven the disks will have a faint yellow tinge, and the Goddard’s
cloth will remove it easily. I go over all the disks, even if they
don’t show any yellowing, because the Goddard’s cloth seems to really
help preventing that yellow from returning. I’ve read that it takes
time for the germanium oxide layer to build up on the argentium, and
that tarnish can occur before that layer has formed. Heating is
supposed to speed up the formation of that protective germanium oxide
layer, thus the baking in the oven. Yes it is an extra step, but it
is an easy one, so I don’t really mind. I have also given out small
squares of the Goddard’s cloth to customers who purchase my Argentium
disks, and advised them to wipe the disk clean from time to time to
maintain the look of the piece. I have an Argentium disk that I wear
regularly, and it definitely tarnishes less than normal sterling
silver, so I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

I went through a period at the beginning of my Argentium use where I
was pretty unhappy and disillusioned. Once I learned more about what
I was working with and how to use it to its best advantage, I was a
lot happier with the material, and I’ve stuck with it. I do think,
for what I am using it for, that it is easier for my customers to
maintain.

I learned pretty much all I know about Argentium from the forum
here. There are people who understand the technical end of things
better than I do, and their info can be found in the archives. My
post is really more of a “from the trenches” outlook than a technical
one.

Hope that is helpful. E-mail if you have any more questions I might
be able to help you with.

Take care.
Brenda
http://www.sunrisejewelryoriginals.com


#8

Hi Sophie,

Cooksons will be carrying Argentium if not now very soon because
they have bought all rights to it. You can also buy it from Rio
Grande, they will ship it anywhere. If you are using Argentium there
are a few rules to follow which make it a little different to other
metals.

You have to Anneal every step of the way, you can only roll, stretch
and work the metal for a short period and then you must anneal it
again… otherwise it will crack. Do not quench it at all!! Leave it
to cool after annealing it and do not !! what ever you do try to
work with it hot, because it will break. Its seem

similar to pottery when its hot “very fragile”. Allow it to cool on a
fire brick, I never work with it until its completely cooled.You can
pickle it but do not pickle while its hot! I use only Argentium
Sterling and I have never had any probs with tarnish.

PS: DO not mix it with regular Sterling if at all possible,
depending on

the amount it can cause headaches and problems.

So there ya go! them there`s the rules.
Have fun
Tina, Ireland


#9

Hi Allan,

I took a look at your work on Etsy. I especially like the key rings,
and their mechanism looks simple and effective. Wow, you’ve made
over 500 stamps?! Cool! I enjoyed seeing the handmade watchbands on
your site, too…

Please re-read my response to your previous email about this topic,
so that you can prevent tarnish on your Argentium Sterling Silver.
Argentium Sterling tarnishes much more slowly than traditional
sterling silver IF appropriate steps have been taken during the
manufacturing process. Please do at least one of the following to the
Argentium Sterling Silver:

1-Heat the Argentium Sterling. If heat is not required by the
process of making the jewelry item, then put it in an oven, in an
open Pyrex dish, for 10-20 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit AFTER
any abrasive process. This accelerates the formation of germanium
oxide, which prevents tarnish and firescale.

2- Rub with a Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Care Cloth, which contains
thiol, a chemical which prevents tarnish. I suspect that you could
accomplish a similar result by dipping in Goddard’s Long Shine
Silver Polish, but that has not been tested to the extent that the
cloth has been tested.

You might also find it helpful to read one of my articles, which are
available on my web site. Road Testing Argentium Silver, written for
Art Jewelry magazine, is the most brief article, if you are short on
time. Further is available at

I have been using Argentium Sterling silver for 9 years, after over
25 years of using traditional sterling silver. I rarely have to clean
or polish the Argentium Sterling jewelry and hollowware that I have
made. Generally, the only things that need occasional cleaning are
earrings in the summer. I have sold and given jewelry to people who
live all over the country. My relatives that live near sulfur springs
in Colorado and the ocean in Florida are especially grateful that
this sterling alloy was invented. An acquaintance, Marty Andersen,
has made jewelry for people who cannot wear traditional sterling
silver, and they were pleased to be able to wear Argentium Sterling
Silver.

I hope that this is helpful to you.

Sincerely,
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#10

Hi Tina,

I am glad to hear that you enjoy using Argentium Silver and have no
problems with tarnish. I disagree about a couple of things, though:
I find that I can forge, roll, hammer, or form Argentium Silver more
than traditional sterling before annealing. Also, I wonder whether
perhaps there has been a mis-interpretation of the tags that read
Argentium-Do Not Mix. These tags are meant to help the folks in the
warehouse avoid making mistakes and mixing the different silvers.
There is no problem with soldering Argentium Silver with traditional
silver or fine silver.

Cynthia
Www.cynthiaeid.com


#11

I was in touch with Cooksons this week and they informed me that
Argentium would be available at the end of May. Hopefully just in
time for Cynthia’s workshops in Birmingham Uk this summer.

Mary UK


#12

Thanks to all who responded to my query, including the Argentium man
himself, Peter Johns, who generously called me from England and
spent about 45 minutes on the phone discussing various aspects of
the situation.

Apparently all of Argentium’s mysteries have not yet been fully
explained, including the yellowish tinge. He, as did several others,
recommended Goddard’s cloth as a tarnish remover/inhibitor. I have
been using them for a couple of years after a previous discussion
here, and used one before shipping on the earrings that yellowed.

Several of you recommended heat treating, but Peter was not
necessarily suggesting that as a required step. I know it sounds
easy, but since I make things one at a time, I really don’t envision
baking each piece individually. I may try it though. If you could
bake a bunch of silver stock before forming and finishing, that
might be a different story, but that apparently will not work, even
if I’m not using any heat in production.

One thing that a couple of you recommended was using the phrase
"tarnish-resistant" rather than “anti-tarnish”. I agree and am not
sure how I ended up using that, since that has been discussed as
well. Maybe because it sounded a little more proactive, but more
probably because I wasn’t thinking clearly.

If you have looked at www.argentiumsilver.com, you may have been put
off by the apparent need to register to get deeper into the site. I
was concerned that if I did, I might get hit up for a license fee or
something. Peter mentioned struggles with the marketing guys on
this, since a lot of others had the same reaction, but assured me
that it was not a problem. In fact, they’ve eased up considerably,
particularly on the use of their logo, which apparently can now be
freely used- if I understood him correctly.

So, I guess I will continue to use the Argentium for specific
things, but I’ll educate my customers a little better and include a
square of Goddard’s cloth with each pair of earrings. Thanks again,
Orchid, and especially Peter Johns!

Allan
www.silvermason.com


#13

I don’t do much in silver, mostly gold, but I’ve had two customers
come back in the last month with rings I’ve cast in Argentium that
were turning their fingers black. I wonder if turning fingers black
is a reaction between the customer’s sweat and metal. This "problem"
runs in our family. Both my niece’s and my fingers will occasionally
turn black while wearing 14K goldrings. I just thought we were
somehow unbalanced… Would love to know the actual reason.My
wedding ring is 22K gold and I’ve never turned black from it, so
there is likely some alloy causing the reaction and it is not only in
Argentium.

Deb


#14

Although not a tarnishing issue, an argentium sterling issue I was
having was brittle castings. I am casting master models who’s sole
purpose in life is to be molded. I thought I’d give AS a try. I
ordered the 970 AS from Stuller and used temperature recommendations
I got from their tech people.

I’m vacuum casting these and melting the AS in a hand furnace.
Stuller said 1850F for the metal and 1100F for the flask. The
castings were usable for molding but brittle. I reordered more 970 AS
(glutton for punishment), this time from Rio, I noticed in their
catalog they recommended a flask temp of not more than 1350F. I
increased the flask temp to 1300F and that seems to have eliminated
the brittle casting issues. I found that interesting and was glad to
move past that particular problem. A new problem is that I’m really
going through the silicone rings on the vacuum caster much more
quickly with such super hot flasks, oh well…it always something.

Mark


#15

Hi all. This is a continuation from my previous post. In trying to
reconstruct a little more of my conversation with Peter Johns, I
remembered a couple more things.

He mentioned antecdodal evidence of people who have some sort of
sensitivity to silver being able to comfortably wear Argentium, with
the 970 version working even better. I realize now that this has
been mentioned before, but I guess it didn’t fully register the
first time. But this seems like a great marketing angle that I
intend to promote.

On the subject of post production heat treating to bring up the
germanium oxide layer: that seems like a lot of toaster oven juice
to devote to a pair or two of earrings, especially in this
green-conscious era. Unless you’re dealing with more of a production
quantity, this expenditure in both time and energy is harder to
justify.

Now to the name. The other day a gallery employee called me to ask
about the “ar-jen-TEEN-ee-um”. I’m SO glad I had a chance to set her
right, but it made me think about what a problem this could be for
"the marketing guys". I realized that, until my pnone call with
Peter, I had never heard the word spoken aloud by anyone but me! The
name Argentium sounds both British and Classical at once, and I just
assumed it was pronounced “ar-JEN-tee-um”. Now I’m not so sure
everyone sees it that way.

For a product name to be indelibly imprinted in the brain, you must
be able to picture it as a word on a page as well as hear it as a
sound in your head. If people are unsure how to pronounce a name,
they’re less likely to use it, perhaps not wanting to appear foolish
or whatever. They’re less likely to embrace it, let alone ask for
it. If I’m going to use and promote Argentium, I have a vested
interest in having it become a brand in demand, well worth a little
price bump. I want people to come in and say “What do you have in
Argentium?”

Argentium has the potential to be a great brand name, and certainly
has a huge leg up on competing tarnish-resistant alloys. I don’t
know what, if anything, the higher Argentium powers are doing to
promote the name and it’s benefits. Nothing that I’m aware of
anyway. I guess it’s up to me to promote it where I can. So, in some
written contexts, I am going to be including the phonetic
pronunciation “ar-JEN-tee-um” to try to head off any problems.

Allan
www.silvermason.com


#16

Hi Allan, Folks…

One thing that a couple of you recommended was using the phrase
"tarnish-resistant" rather than "anti-tarnish". I agree and am not
sure how I ended up using that, since that has been discussed as
well. Maybe because it sounded a little more proactive, but more
probably because I wasn't thinking clearly. 

When Argentium first became somewhat available, I picked up some
wire to fool with…

I live in SE Wisconsin, in Milwaukee… It’s terrible to
sterling…

So I put some of each out, just to see how it would do…

I got the eventual pale tarnish, too…But vastly less than the
Std sterling…

A simple wipe with a cotton cloth removed it…

I didn’t do the heat treat for growing the GeO or use the
Goddard’s…So it probably would even be better…

As some folks have pointed out, Std. sterling has a mellower look to
it with time…

Have since invested in beads, chain, earwires, clasps, etc…

Regards…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)


#17
Several of you recommended heat treating, but Peter was not
necessarily suggesting that as a required step. I know it sounds
easy, but since I make things one at a time, I really don't
envision baking each piece individually. I may try it though. If
you could bake a bunch of silver stock before forming and
finishing, that might be a different story, but that apparently
will not work, even if I'm not using any heat in production. 

Allan, I definitely think that heating your entire stock of wire
before working it would be helpful, especially since my impression is
that you don’t polish these earrings.

Here’s another idea, since you make the earrings one or two pairs at
a time, but don’t want to fire up your toaster oven for a pair of
earrings: when you finish a pair, put them in a baking dish on or
near your oven, and add them when you or someone in your household
next uses the oven.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#18

I really dont understand anyone advising 1350… Silicone rings
scortch at 950… per the old packing of the product!!! Casting above
that temp destroys the rings… as you suggested… I was about to
cast using AS… but now???. not sure with the ‘yellowing’… when
does this occur with AS

thanks,
Jim


#19
No matter who you buy your Argentium Silver from in the U.S., it
is ALL made by Stern-Leach. Stern-Leach has the only license to
make Argentium Silver in the U.S.
(http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive/200809/msg00048.htm ) 

If this is true?

Then we can assume that the AS sellers suggested here (3 or 4) are
all selling the same product…Then, the only difference would be in
the ‘making of each a silver’ mass?? Was recently suggested to me
that AS was not a good base for Enameling…to stick with Sterling…

That, yellowing generally occurred with casting as opposed to just
forming, polishing, etc… and to use a Gardard cloth afterward…
Yet, it is suggested here that kiln harding (lower temps) is 'good’
in preventing the yellowing??

Please clarify.
Thanks,
Jim


#20

Hi Jim,

I think that is probably me that you quoted. Yes, I am sure that it
is true! Because of that, beware of vendors who suggest that they
are selling something that is “like” Argentium—because either it is
not as good, or it is not legal.

In terms of enameling, folks are having success with enameling on
Argentium Sterling by firing for several minutes at the temperature
that the enamel melts, which is a lower temp. and longer time than
the usual flash firing. People are having even more success enameling
on the new AS 970, which has a higher melting temperature. I am told
that they treat it the same as fine silver, in terms of preparation.
Jennifer Friedman, who participates on both this forum and the
Enameling Forum (hosted by Yahoo) has been running extensive
experiments.

The yellowing that is being spoken of is simply minor tarnish —
something I hear of, but rarely see. I attribute this to the way
that I work to prevent tarnish, by making sure to heat the AS after
final finishing, and using a Goddard’s cloth or liquid. (Goddard’s
Long Shine products contain thiol, which binds with germanium to
prevent tarnish.) I don’t think there is a difference in tarnish
between cast pieces and work made from sheet and wire—any
difference is probably due to how much heat the work was exposed to.
In terms of heating to prevent tarnish, I suggest my articles, such
as Road Testing Argentium

Many people learn better by doing than reading, in which case, you
may want to take a workshop. Here are workshops that I have coming
up:

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/workshop-argentium-silver-plus-forming

Best wishes,
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com