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Differentiating sterling from Argentium sterling

How can you differentiate between regular sterling and Argentium
sterling? I made several forged s-hooks in the same shape as old
sterling ones and now I don’t know which is which.

Do any of you have a good technique for keeping the two types of
sterling separate?

And - do we need to separate scrap for refining?

Judy Hoch, G.G.

How can you differentiate between regular sterling and Argentium

Hello Judy,

Good question. Here’s a technique I’ve used: torch it, but good. You
can often tell from the way it heats up but if not just quench, dip
it briefly (couple seconds) in pickle and have a look at the scale on
it. If you’ve got any reddish scale at all then it’s regular sterling
(unfortunately now fire-stained). If all you get is a little bit of
sooty black oxide and nothing else then it’s probably Argentium
Sterling (AS).

Another, less harsh, idea is to do the heat treatment thing (anneal,
heat for 30 minutes at or near 300F/150C, air cool). If it gets nice
and hard it’s AS, if it only hardens a little it’s regular sterling.
I realize that this may not be practical for a few small items but
it’s worth keeping in mind for larger items or bag fulls of little

Trevor F.
in The City of Light

I’ve been keeping everything separate and marked. It’s been easy so
far because most of my standard sterling is pattern wire right now.

I’ve kept my scraps separate and marked, as well. I don’t know if
there will be separate refining for Argentium scraps, but I’m saving
them anyway for future casting - won’t be sending any scraps to the
refiner, whether its argentium or standard sterling.


Scrap Argentium

There is a great, nay FANTASTIC article introducing people to
Argentium in the July 2005, Volume 13 Number 3 SNAG NEWS letter by
Cynthia Eid titled simply “Argentium Sterling Silver” (Page 5 - 10)

Under ‘scrap’ she says that it is not necessary at this time to
separate scrap for a refiner, and that *“it won’t be detrimental to
regular sterling if Argentium Sterling is mixed with regular
sterling, the sterling’s properties won’t alter until the percentages
of the alloys become similar to those of Argentium Silver”

*A quote from the article which allows for copies to be made for
educational, personal and instructional use only.

Hope that helped,

Taylor in Toronto

Hi, In terms of differentiating, I also find it difficult to figure
out, if I have not been careful to keep things marked and/or
separated. If you put the same finish on both, and heat them you can
generally tell which is whic h (torch or oven—I dont think it
matters which, really) . It is a good ide a to include in the test a
piece of metal that you know is Argentium Sterling , and also a piece
of metal that you are sure is regular sterling—it helps one to
figure out which is which. Unfortunately, I have not found a quick
and simple method.

The good news is that you can mark all the S-hooks as sterling,
whether the y are Argentium Sterling Silver or not. It may be
simplest to just do that for this instance, and be more careful in
the future.

If you generally send your scrap to a refiner, it is not necessary,
at this time, to keep Argentium Sterling scrap separate from regular
sterling scrap. (It wont be detrimental to regular sterling. If
Argentium Sterlin g is mixed with regular sterling, the sterlings
properties wont alter until the percentages of the alloys become
similar to those of Argentium Sterling.)