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Fine silver/Argentium Silver problem


#1

To the Experts on Argentium Sterling Silver
From A new ARSS user

While setting an opal in a fine silver bezel, surrounded by three
graduated sizes of Argentium Sterling Silver wire and backed by
Argentium Sterling Silver sheet the fine silver bezel shattered into
pieces like broken glass in several places. Since I was setting an
opal into a fine silver bezel, I was not using excessive force during
the setting process. I suspect that the precipitation hardening or
bringing up the germanium layer after final polishing I did for the
ARSS may have created a large crystal structure in the fine silver
but that’s just my guess. I am in the final stage of creating four
custom pieces and now am afraid to set the stones. I fear I may have
to start all over with all four pendants since I precip hardened and
cooked the germanium layer for them all – following Cynthia and
Trevor’s instructions. Has any one else experienced this or does
anyone have a more educated guess as to what has happened? I have
never had a fine silver bezel act this way before. Usually they go
down like a hot knife through butter.

Cynthia Clearwater
(a long time lurker who has learned so much from you all)
Touchstone Jewelry Design
(925) 285-0684


#2
While setting an opal in a fine silver bezel, surrounded by three
graduated sizes of Argentium Sterling Silver wire and backed by
Argentium Sterling Silver sheet the fine silver bezel shattered
into pieces like broken glass in several places. 

Hello Cynthia,

Sorry to hear of the trouble it’s caused you but that’s amazing!
What a strange think to have happen.

I’m just finishing a simpler piece but basically the same details
–fine silver (FS) bezel on Argentium Sterling (AS) back-- and I’m
seeing the fine silver behave pretty much exactly like you’d expect
fine silver to behave. It came out of the precip hardening pretty
soft actually, so much so that I was thinking of redoing it with
thicker FS bezel material.

If it was me the first thing I’d do is run a side-by-side test to see
if the temps and times you are using does anything to a plain old
strip of your FS material which, of course, one wouldn’t expect it to,
at least as far as I know.

I’d love to hear the metallurgy behind this. James? Are you following
our Argentium saga? Any thoughts?

One thing I have seen that sounds remotely like this is some
brittleness in regular sterling silver (SS) after I’d tried to patina
it with bleach (a series of experiments I tried a while back which
lead me to put the bleach back under the sink and forget about it’s
use in the studio). Once I heated the bleach-soaked SS up on the hot
plate it seemed noticeably less malleable than I would have thought
it should be. This doesn’t shed much light on your situation but it’s
the only instance I’ve seen in my studio of silver becoming brittle
after heating it.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#3
    While setting an opal in a fine silver bezel, surrounded by
three graduated sizes of Argentium Sterling Silver wire and backed
by Argentium Sterling Silver sheet the fine silver bezel shattered
into pieces like broken glass in several places. 

Hi Cynthia,

I’m far from an expert, but I just finished my four pendants using
all A silver except for fine silver bezels. I precip hardened them as
per instructions - maybe even had my kiln hotter than I needed to,
and everything went fine. The fine silver bezels behaved just as they
usually do, nothing shattered when I set the stones. Could there be
something else that causes undue pressure on your bezels? Hopefully
the real experts will have an answer.

Jan
www.designjewel.com


#4

Cynthia -

Would you please subject just a bit of the fine silver bezel wire to
the exact same heat hardening treatment you gave the entire piece
and report back if it is very breakable? It seems that would
address your idea that heat hardening changed the fine silver’s
crystal structure.

Debby


#5

Wow, that’s scary. I have done pendants that combined AS, SS and FS
bezels. I just went through the normal soldering, buffing process,
but was not aware at the time that it required reactivation and the
designs did not require hardening. I had no problem. This has been
one of my questions posed to people at both Rio and Stuller. How will
the activation or hardening process effect other metals? You
certainly hate to find out the answer at the “setting stone” stage.

Grace


#6

Having plucked up my courage overnight, I am happy to report that I
set the opals in the remaining three pendants without problem. The
fine silver bezel behaved as normal. Yesterday I may have hit a bad
patch in the milling of the fine silver bezel wire but all the bezels
came from the same coil so it’s a mystery what happened to the one
that crumbled into pieces. The studio gremlins decided to munch on
that one bezel wire while I wasn’t looking. Thanks to Trevor for your
reply and for all your work on Argentium Sterling Silver. It really
is great to work with and I know my customer will be happy not having
to polish her pendants!

Cynthia Clearwater
Touchstone Jewelry Design