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Fine silver


#1

Is it possible to harden fine silver enough to use it as jewelry? I
had always thought that silver will tarnish, but that’s because I’d
only seen sterling. What do you know–pure silver doesn’t tarnish!
It stays clean and bright, even after heating.

Is there any way to harden fine silver sufficiently to use as
jewelry? (I figure that if steel can be made harder or softer
depending on how it is heated and cooled, the same may be true of
other metals.)

“Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains” has projects that call for fusing
.999 silver wire into links, and recommends using a kiln for better
control. The kiln looks like a stand holding a mortar bowl and lid.
No indication of how it is heated. What kind of kiln is this, and is
there an inexpensive substitute that can be rigged up at home?

Using a torch instead of a kiln is tricky–it’s harder to hit the
correct fusing temperature. My links are either underheated
(unfused) or overheated (fused but distorted). I’ll probably resort
to soldering the links, but any tips on fusing silver will be
appreciated!

Janet


#2

Janet, I have made quite a few pieces using fine silver sheet,
primarily pins and earrings. I use a fold forming technique based on
from Charles Lewton Brain, who is an invaluable supporter
of Orchid. By using folding techniques one can create a significant
amount of rigidity to a piece of sheet silver. If you want some more
info and a picture of an example, email me off list. Joel

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com


#3

The process I use for fusing is to lay out the rings on a charcoal
block and come down from directly overhead using a Meco torch and
watch for the fusing to take place. How many to lay out on the
charcoal block depends on you. Once you have the technique down you
can put them closer together. Fusing fine silver and high karet gold
is much easier than soldering. Practice on the fine silver until
you’re confident. If you melt some so what; you’re only learning
when you screw up. Come down slowly with your torch so the tip of
the flame is hitting the middle (opening) of the jump ring and watch
for the fusing to take place. You’ll learn where the sweet spot is. I
haven’t used a kiln, but it couldn’t be easier than a torch. Easy
for me to say, but I hope this helps.


#4

Janet, Unfortunately fine silver is too soft for most jewelry use.
There are some folks who use it but it is just too soft for durable
long term use. It also tarnishes, it is slower than sterling to
tarnish but it dose. You may be confusing the oxides formed in
heating sterling with tarnish. Tarnish is mostly silver sulfide
which forms from the interaction of silver with sulfur in the
environment. It is black in color just like the color you get from
dipping silver (sterling or fine) in liver of sulfur.

Jim


#5
    Is it possible to harden fine silver enough to use it as
jewelry? 

Probably not in the way that you’re thinking. It does wonderfully
well for those flexible loop-in-loop chains, but anything that needs
to hold its shape? Not so good. I don’t believe that pure silver
is as soft as pure gold, but it’s in the same ballpark. Both are
alloyed (among other reasons) to make them robust enough to get
knocked around as jewelry.

    I had always thought that silver will tarnish, but that's
because I'd only seen sterling. What do you know--pure silver
doesn't tarnish! It stays clean and bright, even after heating. 

Fine silver will tarnish with wear, it just takes a re-ee-ealy long
time, much longer than sterling. And yes, the clean-under-flame
thing is fun. Even if it’s a bit tarnished before it sees the
flame, it won’t be afterwards!

    Using a torch instead of a kiln is tricky--it's harder to hit
the correct fusing temperature. My links are either underheated
(unfused) or overheated (fused but distorted). I'll probably
resort to soldering the links, but any tips on fusing silver will
be appreciated! 
What works for me:
- oxy-acetylene
- small flame
- get the whole ring orange hot
- hover briefly over the join, and if it doesn't fuse right away, circle 
the ring some more
- the instant is goes shiny, take the heat away

It does take a little getting used to, but it is worth it! I check
Orchid infrequently, so if you still have questions later feel free
to email me offlist. @Spiderchain_Jewelry

-Spider


#6

Janet, It’s very important in fusing that part fit perfectly
together if you do not want distortion. Saw your coil apart rather
than cutting and remove the flame when the ring looks shinny. After
you get the knack, you can lay the rings out in rows with the seams
all facing the same way and do your fusing. Until then, lay out only
a few and allow enough space between them that you don’t have to
worry about accidentally melting the ones on the sidelines. Also, use
a softer broader flame, not a little pointy one. The whole ring needs
to be brought up to heat. You are working with silver, not gold.

That said, there is an advantage to using sterling instead of fine
silver. I think that it is less likely to be stretched out of shape
due to the weight hanging on it or from sliding a bracelet onto the
wrist without unhooking it first.

Marilyn Smith


#7
 Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains" has projects that call for fusing
.999 silver wire into links... 

I love this book.

 Using a torch instead of a kiln is tricky--it's harder to hit the
correct fusing temperature. My links are either underheated
(unfused) or overheated (fused but distorted). 

I have a small butane torch that I bought for about $15 at Home
Depot (the one with the ring at the bottom that lets it stand
upright and the torch head perpendicular to the body of the torch,
not the pencil-type one,) that works great for fusing those links.
I haven’t tried my oxy-propane torch to fuse them, but if I were
going to, I’d keep the amount of oxygen I was using in the mix down,
so that the flame was “softer.” In any case, keep your flame
moving, and be ready to pull off the second the joint gets that
shiny “liquid” look.

 What kind of kiln is this, and is there an inexpensive substitute
that can be rigged up at home?

It looks like the little tabletop type kilns they use for
enamelling. They seem to have been quite trendy for the bourgy
upper middle class housewives of the late sixties and seventies
(those for whom decoupage was just not enough.) Thompson enamel
still has these for sale new, but it hasn’t been that long since I
saw a complete kit in its original brown and purple box for sale on
ebay. The link for the Thompson Enamel ones is:
http://www.thompsonenamel.com/products/furnaces/index.htm I have no
idea how one might cobblejock a substitute (although I’m hoping
someone else does, I’d love to hear it.) I hope this helps.


#8
    Janet, I have made quite a few pieces using fine silver sheet, 

I use primarily fine silver for its colour and softness. Earring
parts that don’t require a high strength application, one-piece tree
trunk rings, to name two. View at <www.adam.co.nz/jewellery>. Note
non-US spalling :wink:

Bri
B r i a n A d a m
e y e g l a s s e s j e w e l l e r y
Auckland NEW ZEALAND


#9
    It looks like the little tabletop type kilns they use for
enamelling.  They seem to have been quite trendy for the bourgy
upper middle class housewives of the late sixties and seventies
(those for whom decoupage was just not enough.)  

I bought one of these a couple of years back and at the time really
wondered whether or not it was worth the money – but, I use it
enough that I can’t believe I worried about it!! If you do any
enameling, it’s good for testing one sample when you don’t want to
heat up your big kiln; if you are working on something that is
really heavy and you need extra heat underneath to boost what you can
get out of your torch, if you do any granulation at all, you will end
up using it guaranteed – it’s just one of those things that you end
up finding ways to use all the time – especially if it’s right there
on the bench… … …

Laura Wiesler


#10
  It looks like the little tabletop type kilns they use for
enamelling. 

You need not search for old garage sale ones. The little beehive
kilns are sold by a number of jewelers suppliers, and are actually
intended for serious use, not just hobby stuff. They’re used by
folks doing granulation, and keum boo, among other things, in
addition to simple enameling. Allcraft is one supplier that comes to
mind in addition to Thompson.

Peter


#11

My question is whether or not a tabletop kiln used for enameling
would be suitable for granulation as well. Mine is the kind that
Thompson carr ies I use it regularly for testing enamels, or or when
I am doing demonstrations of cloisonne and am unable to use a
large kiln. I am considering getting an ultralite kiln for
granulation. However, . I notice that it has a very small working
surface, which would limit its us e. Therefore i am wondering if my
enameling tabletop kiln would be suitable, or would the ultralite be
better for granulation?

My second question is: If I get the ultralite for granulation
purposes , should I coat the firing surface with kiln wash similar
to what I use for my other kilns? A friend has an ultralite and
she said the instructi on sheet did not mention anything about kiln
wash. Thanks for your advice

Alma


#12
 My question is whether or not a tabletop kiln used for enameling
would be suitable for granulation as well. My second question is:
If I get the ultralite for granulation purposes , should I coat
the firing surface with kiln wash similar to what I use for my
other kilns?  

Alma, I have one of the small kilns I use for granulation, no need
to buy a new one, just use the one you have. Since I’m not using it
for enameling and don’t use anything that would cause a mess on the
surface, I haven’t used kiln wash. Some of these small kilns have
exposed elements and you don’t want to get kiln wash on them.

Donna in VA


#13

Alma – The answer is absolutely yes – the small beehive type kiln
which Thompson (and others) sells can be used for granulation. If
you are going to be doing granulation that needs much greater heat,
then it’s not size that will make the difference for you – it is how
the temperature is controlled. For doing heavy granulation pieces,
you will want a scientific kiln; and by that I mean one that not only
is rated to maintain temperatures within a fairly tight range of the
desired temperature, but one that is also rated for "continuous use"
as compared to what you might purchase for enameling, which are
generally rated as “intermittant use”. They are a completely
different animal (and have a very different range of prices to
match!!)

Those small table-top kilns are wonderful in that they give you a
great base heat for the granulation process; by leaving the top off
as you granulate, you can see what is happening, and the torch is
used to “top off” or “finish” the process. You thus have a great
deal of control through out the whole process – and i think that’s
half the fun of it anyway!!

Laura Wiesler