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Enameling Argentium Saga


#1

Hello everyone.

It’s been a while, so I hope everyone in Orchidland is doing well. I made a big career change (jewelry is my hobby), and thus was away from my passion of making jewelry. How I envy you professionals out there that get to do it for a living!

However, in my rare spare time, I designed with some help a unique conch pendant that has texture on the outside, but a smooth surface in the concave “foot” of the conch. After 5 or 6 years of making jewelry as a hobby, I have finally made a design that I’m completely happy with and believe I could actually put my name on so to speak. All I have left is to create a “painted” style of some pink, white, or red enamel in the foot of the conch.

I make everything out of Argentium unless someone wants gold. It serves us well here in Florida with constant exposure to salt and chlorine. I have not enameled before, but read several books, asked my professional jeweler friend a lot of questions, and did more research.

I read that Argentium can slump if you try high temperature enamels. I thought I would try the painting enamels from Thompsons. They are not only paintable, but they have a low fire temperature. I have continuously failed to get any of this enamel to work on my Argentium conch. It turns into a brown dried lipstick sludge and does not stick at all to the argentium. I thought letting the enamel dry for a full day would get rid of enough moisture, but there were other problems I’m sure.

Does only the typical medium or high fire enamel work?

I have a digital kiln. The best information I found specific to my problem is from 10 years ago on a similar post where I found this person having success:

<JONLEEMar '07
Problem solved I think.

I tried this:

pickled the domed 30 mm Argentium 925 piece for 15 mins at 140
degrees F in citric acid pickle.

sanded the surface to be enamelled with 220 grit emery paper (to
try to remove germanium layer)

sifted on Thompson opaque enamel

in kiln at 1450 degrees F for 2 mins

repeated steps 3. and 4. two more times (for 3 coats of enamel)

Worked fine - enamel seemed to “stick”, has not popped off (yet).

So maybe the key here for enamelling Argentium 925 is to sand off
the germanium layer Or maybe I was just lucky second time around

But I have now enamelled 3 pieces of Argentium using the above
technique, and none have popped off.>

END OF QUOTE

1450 degrees for 2 minutes? Wouldn’t the argentium piece melt into half of a puddle?

I will get regular enamel and try the above post from 2007. But I thought I would ask if anyone else has advice for trying to enamel regular Argentium.


#2

Continuum silver enamels beautifully.
-Jo


#3

Yeah, I may go ahead and start trying Continuum. I like your idea.
But it would be nice to keep my set-up and work simple. I make a lot of my own sheet and wire, for example, and Argentium is the perfect mix between being workable for that, and yet can be precipitation hardened to a pretty high hardness. If I only need to remove the germanium layer of the sections I need to enamel, I think this would be OK for me.

Is it correct that the silver alloys with a dabble of palladium should be about twice the cost of a germanium based silver alloy? So if Argentium is 30 and ounce, Continuum should be 60? That’s not too bad and definitely worth trying.


#4

Continuum silver enamels beautifully.

It takes heat! No fear of having it melt at enameling temperatures.

After years of soldering on the edge of melt-down with Argentium it is SO NICE to heat something to a bright glow and not worry about it turning to mush.

Neil A


#5

Richard- It’s 52.80 per oz today. Look for metals prices to drop a little
if the Feds raise interest rates.
I can’t recommend Continuum enough. It’s not as slow as Argentium to
tarnish but the working properties are amazing. I have re melted and
reused Cont. more than a dozen times without needing to add fresh metal.
It kiln hardens as hard as 14 KT white gold. Cast and rolls beautifully.
Very fusible and I mostly with IT which is enamel friendly.
-Jo


#6

Hi Rick,

Think this is my first post ever on Ganoksin! I’ve done a fair amount of enameling the past two years, so hope to add to this discussion.

The Thompson painting enamels aren’t sticking because they are overglazes, and are meant to be painted onto a layer of enamel and sink into it. They won’t bond directly to the metal. I usually paint overglazes onto a white enamel base. If you were to use clear enamel as your base, be aware that the painting enamels might be opaque or semi-transparent. Also, from the one time I used them, I remember that many of the colors changed when fired. They aren’t WYSIWYG. So it’s a good idea to test the colors on a scrap piece of the same kind of metal and see what works before enameling something you care about. Take notes as to kiln temp, how long the piece is in the kiln, and what enamels were used in what order, etc. because varying each of these things will give you a different outcome.

If you want a transparent red or pink enamel on the silver, it might be easier to purchase transparent enamels. One of my favorite red and pink combinations would be Ninomiya N6 red and G703C pink. Most pinks and reds will turn orangy if fired straight on silver, so a transparent enamel needs to be fired first, then the pink or red.

Ricky Frank will be teaching a workshop about enameling on Argentium this August at the Enamelist Society conference. To find out more about that, go to http://www.enamelistsociety.org/Activities/Conference/

:)) Cindy


#7

Have you considered nano ceramic plating or powder coating. They cure at lower temps. 300 degrees.


#8

Ahhhh, that explains it, thank you, Cindy.

At least now I know why my results were so ridiculously bad.


#9

Problem solved, for the most part. I’m having much greater success now enameling Argentium. By using normal enamel powder, and not the painted glass type… it’s sticking on and the opaques look fine in color. Interestingly though, the clear enamel for silver turns dark brown. But the colored opaques seem to be fine.

I may experiment with Ceramit though so I can get the exact color I want.