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Best sterling for beginners


#1
So for someone completely new to Sterling, what would you/anyone
recommend for a first-time metal? 

My experience with years of work with both the S88 and S57NA alloy
sterlings have shown them to work easier than traditional sterling,
with far less fire scale issues, take deep dark oxidation when
required, and are quite easy to draw or roll. I don’t recommend
copper alloyed sterling to my students anymore because of the many
problems inherent in the metal. In short, the new sterling alloys we
now use make a superior product in my experience.


#2
American silver coinage is very stable in this respect. 

Yes, but you have to know which ones. Some of the last of the
american silver coins were lower silver percentage, if I recall.

And more to the point, the usual silver content of silver coinage,
not just american but many others, is not sterling silver’s 925, but
rather .900, appropriately called “coin silver”.

Peter


#3

Leonid,

There is a great source of sterling silver and you always know
exactly what are you getting. Take a trip to your local numismatic
store. 

Yes US silver coins are very consistent, just realise that you are
getting 900 silver. Sure you can alloy it up with fine but that sort
of defeats the fast, simple, and cheap solution.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4
Yes US silver coins are very consistent, just realise that you are
getting 900 silver. 

Not all US silver coins are 900 only those prior to 1965. From 1965
to 1970 half dollars still has silver in them but only 40%

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#5
Yes, but you have to know which ones. Some of the last of the
american silver coins were lower silver percentage, if I recall. 

Morgan dollars, Piece dollars, and Walking liberty 50 cents are
excellent. One more thing. If you cannot read the date, the coin has
no numismatic value. Walking Liberty 50 cent are especially
susceptible to this type of wear.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6
Yes US silver coins are very consistent, just realise that you are
getting 900 silver. Sure you can alloy it up with fine but that
sort of defeats the fast, simple, and cheap solution. 

I do not sell articles made from silver. I use silver for models,
experiments, and to alloy with platinum. I do recommend to practice
techniques on traditional silver/copper alloy. Using old coins is a
very economical way to do it. You just pay for metal. No fabrication
charges, shipping and handling, and other BS. Coin can rolled very
easily. Just anneal it and roll.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#7
My experience with years of work with both the S88 and S57NA alloy
sterlings have shown them to work easier than traditional
sterling, with far less fire scale issues, take deep dark oxidation
when required, and are quite easy to draw or roll. I don't
recommend copper alloyed sterling to my students anymore because of
the many problems inherent in the metal. 

Strongly disagree!

There are no inherent problems in traditional sterling alloy. There
is at least one problem that I discovered with alloys that boast
their resistance to oxidation.

A lot of my work requires soldering two parts, which are touching in
several contact points. As an example, take a look at my video
"Coronet Cluster" The diamond holding gallery attaches to under-bezel
via multiple soldered joints ( one per each diamond ). Two pieces
bound by wire and soldered in one shot, moving flame from one joint
to the next. When I released the DVD, I was getting a lot of emails
that there were problems with soldering. Joints were coming apart
during polishing. In each and every case they were using Argentium
alloy.

I got some of it and gave it a go. What happening is that when alloy
is heated, it forms film of Germanium oxide on the surface. The first
joint will solder fine, and may be the second one, but subsequent
joints, while solder flows, there are no real adhesion takes place.
Joint behaves like cold soldered. To remedy this, I had to after
every two joints to pickle, neutralize, wash, and dry. I also
realize that standard pickle is not effective in removing germanium
oxide. One has to boil things lye to get rid of it. So it is Royal
Pain in you know where, to work with it.

So these new technological wonders may be great alloys for casting,
granulation, and the like, but for real fabrication they are
unsuitable.

I strongly recommend, until manufactures develop specialized fluxes
to deal with germanium oxide layer, to stay away from it.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#8

Ever wonder why, when you were learning to make jewelry, you were
taught using sterling before you were taught using gold?


#9
My experience with years of work with both the S88 and S57NA alloy
sterlings have shown them to work easier than traditional
sterling, with far less fire scale issues, take deep dark oxidation
when required, and are quite easy to draw or roll. I don't
recommend copper alloyed sterling to my students anymore because of
the many problems inherent in the metal. 

Would you please comment on the physical appearance of these new
alloys? I have heard some artists comment that despite the qualities
of the new alloys that make working with them easier, they still
prefer the traditional copper/silver.925 because the metal has a
more beautiful appearance: deep, rich silver color as opposed the
more “grayish” color of argentium, etc. For those of you who work
with the new alloys, do you see a difference in metal appearance? Are
there others of you that prefer copper/silver .925? I haven’t worked
with the new alloys, and would be interested in hearing your
opinions.


#10

Hi Noman,

Ever wonder why, when you were learning to make jewelry, you were
taught using sterling before you were taught using gold? 

I’m fortunate where I’m learning, it’s more about the techniques,
not the metal.

The premise is that first year it’s brass, second year it’s silver,
and third year it’s gold.

However, you can choose to use more valuable metals with no
detriment. First year I was using brass, fine silver, sterling
silver, bronze, and copper (also mokume, but that was a personal
project). Gold was a little too hideous in price for first year
projects imo. This year it’s mainly sterling silver, but I will
attempt to used a little gold in some of the projects. I’m not fussed
with platinum.

Regards Charles A.


#11

I’m with Leonid, strongly agree with him.

Germanium alloys have some real color advantages, but I would not
recommend them to beginners. I only use non copper sterling rarely,
when the circumstances are absolutely ideal, when the planets have
aligned and I have a project that seems to be tailor made for their
set of properties. For everything else I prefer copper alloy
sterling. Offsetting the little problems that arise with germanium
alloys can be confusing, require the set up of special pickle, or
baths, like Leonid mentioned. This is less than ideal for a beginner
that just needs to learn about soldering.

Also, I believe that students should LEARN about firescale,
understand it, and let the evidence of it guide their refinement of
skill. Most of us have learned to solder well, and to understand the
formation of oxides by having to contend with firescale. When it
comes to developing real skill, monitoring visible evidence of
oxides has advantages.


#12
"Coronet Cluster"........Joints were coming apart during polishing.
In each and every case they were using Argentium alloy. 

I asked this once before with no response, WHY is anyone making a
ring like that in silver? shakes head


#13
.. I don't recommend copper alloyed sterling to my students anymore
because of the many problems inherent in the metal. In short, the
new sterling alloys we now use make a superior product in my
experience. 

Valerie - While it is easier to get firescale free work with the new
alloys, they work differently from old standard sterling. But they
all have a substantial copper content, it is needed for hardness. And
I just checked with United Precious Metals and from past inquiry know
that Argentium as well has a substantial copper content.

Judy Hoch


#14
I'm fortunate where I'm learning, it's more about the techniques,
not the metal. 

Yes, it’s always about the techniques, no matter where you learn. I
learned in a busy retail jewelry store/factory. And I wasn’t taught
silver first because it was cheaper than gold…they bought all their
gold from walk-in’s and used it without refining. I was taught silver
first because its much more challenging to work with than is gold. And
brass is harder to work with than silver, so you make my point.


#15
Also, I believe that students should LEARN about firescale, 

You also make my point. When teaching future jewelers we do them a
disservice by making things too easy.


#16
So these new technological wonders may be great alloys for
casting, granulation, and the like, but for real fabrication they
are unsuitable. 

What about repairs and sizing? I have no experience with these
alloys so far, but between the problems described and an additional
heat-treatment after the work, this seems like one has to adjust his
repair prices for Argentium & friends.

Are there ways to tell copper based sterling from their modern
brothers?


#17
I asked this once before with no response, WHY is anyone making a
ring like that in silver? *shakes head* 

For practice. When I was learning the technique, it took me many
times of doing it over again. It is not something that happens on the
first try.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#18
I'm fortunate where I'm learning, it's more about the techniques,
not the metal. 

Yes, it’s always about the techniques, no matter where you learn. I
learned in a busy retail jewelry store/factory. And I wasn’t taught
silver first because it was cheaper than gold…they bought all their
gold from walk-in’s and used it without refining. I was taught silver
first because its much more challenging to work with than is gold.
And brass is harder to work with than silver, so you make my
point.


#19

The 50 cent pieces, from 1965-68 were 40% silver, but they were clad,
2 silver sections over copper to achieve that 40%. Up to 1964 silver
coins in the US were 90% silver.

Ben Brauchler
www.BenzGemz.com


#20
I asked this once before with no response, WHY is anyone making a
ring like that in silver? *shakes head* 

To learn, gain proficiency, develop skill and mastery of the tools
and technique.

MDS