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Firescale resistant alloys tested


#1

Hi Everyone,

In response to the testing done for firescale resistance in 2006 on 3
of United’s silver alloys versus Argentium. There are no standard
tests for firescale resistance. People come up with their own type of
tests to prove their product is superior. The 3 United silver alloys
tested have been used by large jewelry manufacturers worldwide over
the last 20 years. They are made as sterling silver casting grains or
master alloys for customers using their own fine silver. After
selling many metric tons of our products worldwide for all these
years, there have been few if any complaints about fire scale. The
products are easy to use and don’t require require training classes,
special handling, special solders or a cult like following. Our
firescale resistant alloys have been used in high production
operations by employees with various skill levels and quirky
properties would not be tolerated. I’m not trying to berate
Argentium, just putting in my 2 cents worth. I know that questioning
the mystique of Argentium is a sacrilege on this web= site.

Have fun and try new things,
Jim Sivertsen
United Technical Dept.


#2

Jim,

Reading your post, I see that you work in the technical department
for United Metals, right? Hopefully you’ve been aware of at least
some of the conversation going on about different sterling alloys.

I’ve heard recently that Stuller, the big tool/ metals supplier and
findings manufacturer, has now STOPPED selling Argentium! As popular
as Argentium has become, that is pretty amazing news. My
understanding is that Stuller did a lot of testing, comparing their
United S57NA-based sterling to Argentium, and their Sterlium Plus (
S57NA alloy ) out-performed the Argentium. But even if Stuller
thought the S57NA alloyed sterling was superior to Argentium, I’m
surprised they would stop selling it entirely.

Is this Sterlium Plus Sterling available in sheet and wire stock
through your company or Stuller, or just as casting grain? What about
the traditional sterling? Is the traditional copper-alloyed sterling
(sheet and wire) also being manufactured, or is that being phased out
now in favor of better sterlings?

I for one appreciate hearing from a person with technical expertise
such as yourself. Maybe you’ll be able to help shed some light on
some of the confusing on the new sterling alloys we’ve
been hearing about.

Jay Whaley


#3
Our firescale resistant alloys have been used in high production
operations by employees with various skill levels and quirky
properties would not be tolerated. 

There is an important point has been brought up. In volume
production, where many people with different levels of skills are
involved, using alloy which resists firescale is a good idea. It is
also should be mentioned that firescale problem for these situation
has been solved many years ago, way before goldsmiths ever heard of
Argentium, unless one studied chemistry. Argentium is Latin for
silver, same way as Aurum for gold. If my memory serves me right, a
small amount of Aluminum in alloy does the trick. It has been known
since early 1900’s. So it is kind of interesting to read some posts
describing struggle with firescale. Makes one feel like taking a
trip back in time.

Another point to contemplate is what is behind this “Argentium
Push”. I believe that history can be a guide to understand it. In
1970’s De Beers had to sign a deal with RUSalmaz to buy all their
production. Strangely, it was mostly small stones. Coincidently, most
of jewellery designers started to churn out designs with pave either
completely covering, or inserts. Market was saturated with small
stones and they have to be moved.

Another episode comes to mind is when limited partnerships became
popular with general public. There was a time when Titanium was very
expensive. My memory is kind of hazy, but for some reason $30 per
pound is bouncing in my head. One genius on Wall Street formed
limited partnership to invest in rare metals and Titanium in
particular. He plugged a lot of money in Titanium scrap, which was
going for only a dollar or two per pound. It is only later he
realized that high price of Titanium is due to high refining cost and
scrap was almost worthless. And again, almost overnight, Titanium
became the metal to lead Jewellery Industry into the future. We all
know how the story ended.

Argentium “invention” plays out along the same lines. I am sure as
time goes by, we are going to find out who is dumping Germanium and
for what reason. We can speculate a little as well. Germanium is used
in Electronics and recycling electronic components is a large
problem. Refining to purity, so it can be reused in microchips are
expensive and may not even be possible. So amount of useless
Germanium is grows every day. Jewellery Industry seems like a good
place to dispose of it. Throughout the History, it is always been
the case that if someone got what nobody wanted; the best way to get
rid of it is to make people eat it, or wear it.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#4
I know that questioning the mystique of Argentium is a sacrilege on
this website. 

No, just for a couple of people. But if you really want to stir the
pot, say something negative about the wonders of metal clay.

But more seriously, could you master alloy be used with torch
melting? I’d really like to try your alloys, but I have nothing but a
torch to melt my metal for casting. Doable?

Thanks!


#5

Hi Leonid,

Sorry, my schoolboy latin won’t let me pass this up: "Argentium"
isn’t latin for silver. The real latin is “Argentum”. No “I”.

Also, no doubt Jim Binnion will hop in here, but the least little
bit of aluminum (or aluminium for the brits) will cause really
horrific brittleness in cast silver I had a student miss a snip of
aluminum wire in a load of scrap that we were melting to cast once.
Well less than a gram, in a 100gm+ melt. The whole thing crumbled
like day-old cornbread, in addition to doing some really weird things
while molten. Try it: you won’t like it.

[snip] popular with general public. There was a time when Titanium
was very expensive. My memory is kind of hazy, but for some reason
$30 per pound is bouncing in my head. One genius on Wall Street
formed 

I was just quoted $40+/lb yesterday, for truckload quantities.

scrap was almost worthless. And again, almost overnight, Titanium
became the metal to lead Jewellery Industry into the future. We
all know how the story ended. 

Speaking as one of the people who likes working with it, it’s all
about the strength, weightlessness, and color.

FWIW,
Brian.


#6

Personally, the way in which the argentium is marketed, or more
precise, pushed through people’s throat, makes me vomit. As I see it,
there is not one single good reason why anyone should work with this
alloy. As many has said already, the problem of firescale in silver
can be prevented completely by something as simple of using a flux,
the formula of which can be found anywhere - Mr. Rowe has published
it in here many times. For the rest, say what you want, argentium
looks gray. It’s colour is gray, taking the main attraction of
silver, it’s beautiful, soft white colour away. Mr. Surpin can be
very well right in his explanation concerning the need to find a
market for germanium. And the argentium marketeers found it: based on
the questions which come up in this site (as well as the 100 per cent
predictable identity of the respondents), it is easy to see that
argentium is geared towards beginners. I would like to know how many
poor souls, who cannot yet produce decent work in sterling, changed
to argentium in the hope that this would help them. It is to be in
vain, of course, as there is no alternative for schooling, although
there is certainly de-schooling. Jacques Pinaud


#7
The products are easy to use and don't require require training
classes, special handling, special solders 

Just as a point of fact, Argentium does not require special solder.
The reason for Argentium solders are a) for lower flow temperatures
in keeping with the metal’s lower melting point, and b) so the solder
joint has the same properties as the rest of the piece.

or a cult like following. 

It is insulting to belittle others, and it is childish to call
people names. Why don’t you show people a basic level of respect,
even if they don’t buy your products or agree with you?

Neil A.


#8
but the least little bit of aluminum (or aluminium for the brits)
will cause really horrific brittleness in cast silver I had a
student miss a snip of aluminum wire in a load of scrap that we
were melting to cast once. 

I am extremely confident in what I said. As far as your unfortunate
experience, there are many reasons why that could happen. When
dealing with alloys, just mixing things together does not work. There
are certain methodology of how to introduce different metals into
melt.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#9

To the point. Firescale has always been a problem and I have tried
Argentium and did not like it’s properties. I just tried Hoover &
Strongs firescale resistant sterling and it is the cats meow. It
works like conventional sterling. Note: I have no ties to Hoover it
just works for me.

Richard Langbert in sunny Hobe Sound, Fl


#10

Don’t forget, Argentium solders also match the tarnish-resistance of
Argentium sheet, wire, and casting grain.

Neil, I think it may just be the perfect time to start an offshoot
group of Orchid for those individuals who need an attitude
adjustment. Some people live for confrontation.

Jeff Herman
hermansilver.com


#11
When dealing with alloys, just mixing things together does not
work. There are certain methodology of how to introduce different
metals into melt. 

Exactly Leonid! Some people think that you just poor all the metals
together, flame it up and stir the melt and ready! No way, this will
not alway’s work, for example if you make your own solder, zinc will
oxideze with an unmeltable white layer if you melt it with a torch.

You whould be amazed howmany alloy’s are used in combination with
aluminum. De euro coin is one of them, Nordic gold is another one
aswell as aluminumbronze. There are more then these few ones I think.
May be nice to check it out.

You have to know what you are doing, that is called wisdom and
knowledge.

Have fun and enjoy,
Pedro


#12
Firescale has always been a problem and I have tried Argentium and
did not like it's properties. I just tried Hoover & Strongs
firescale resistant sterling and it is the cats meow. 

There are many alloy formulas to deal with firescale. I was
surprised that use of the Aluminum for that purpose is a revelation
to some. I mentioned before alloy made of silver, gold, and platinum.
There is a poor man variation of this alloy 85/10/5 correspondingly
silver/gold/palladium. The interesting part is that palladium can be
replaced by combination of Indium and Aluminum without any loss or
properties. I personally never worked with alloys, where palladium
is replaced by Aluminum/Indium combination. But I was told that some
refines using it with good results.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#13

Richard,

Can you tell us more about the specific sterling alloy from Hoover
and Strong you are using? What is it called, and what do you like
about it? Is it available in sheet and wire stock, or just as
casting grain?

Jay Whaley


#14

Hello Leonid,

If my memory serves me right, a small amount of Aluminum in alloy
does the trick. It has been known since early 1900's. 

You are correct that research was done with aluminium additions in
the early part of the 20th Century. The most comprehensive study was
’The Tarnishing of Silver and Silver Alloys and its Prevention’, by
L.E. Price and G.J Thomas published in 1938 by the Institute of
Metals. (70,000 specimens and 100 different silver alloys).
Unfortunately I have not been able to find a copy online to share as
this is an excellent example of what could be achieved when
researchers were properly funded and allowed to conduct pure research
projects, incidentally this work was funded by the Worshipful Company
of Goldsmiths.

To summarise their work, they found that high tarnish resistance
could be achieved in silver alloys containing 1% or less of
aluminium, beryllium or silicon if the aluminium, beryllium or
silicon was preferentially oxidised, in controlled atmospheres with a
low partial pressure of oxygen, to form a protective oxide film.
Alternatively they found that it was possible to cathodically deposit
a uniform film of alumina or beryllia to achieve this protection.

However, even a small amount of aluminium present in a silver alloy
causes a dramatic reduction in its electrical properties; beryllium
forms a number of intermetallic compounds in silver which means that
any brazed (soldered) joints will be brittle and silicon contents
above 0.2% in silver alloys widen the melting range to such an extent
that hot cracking becomes a major concern when investment casting
(For an excellent review of this see ‘Silver Casting Revisited: The
Alloy Perspective’ by Joerg Fischer Buhner et al; presented at the
2010 Santa Fe Symposium).

Charles Allenden
Argentium International


#15

Hi Jay,

(In response to your posting 3/22/12 on Sterlium Plus and S57NA
master alloy.) Stuller switched over to using Sterlium Plus for their
mill products along with casting grain and product line. They found
it to be a more user friendly product with excellent fire scale and
tarnish resistance. United switched all the silver mill products
over to Sterlium Plus some time back. We also supply in in Sterlium
Plus casting grain and S57NA master alloy. I’m not positive but I
think Stuller still produces some tarditional stering silver.

The woring properties of Sterlium Plus & S57NA master alloy are very
much like traditional sterling silver and regular silver solders are
used. The recommended casting temperatures for investment casting
are a bit higher 1832F to 1868F versus traditional sterlings 1742F
to 1796F. We have always strived to make user friendly metal
products for the jewelry industry.

We are not trying to put down Argentium, it’s users or Peter Johns
the inventor. I met and spoke at length to Peter at the Symposium
some 20 or so years back when he was first developing his germanium
silver. He was a very sincere, knowledgable silversmith with a brave
and noble inovation to improve the formulation of sterling silver. I
have the greatest respect for Peter Johns and all his years of
development work.

My reference to cult like following was rather tongue in cheek and
aimed at the marketing of Argentium. Over the years alternative
products have been used by members of Orchid and the members were
slammed by the promoters of Argentium. Any commentatary about
aternative products was met with strong opposition and reminded me
of the Monte Python movie “Life of Brian” where Brian says “You have
to think for yourself” and the crowd keeps yelling “Tell us more”
“Tell us more”. One has to question the status quo and think for
yourself. There are alternatives.

Sorry for the delay in my response as I was switching from the
Digest format to the open format.

Thanks and Regards,
Jim Sivertsen
United Technical Dept.


#16
... it may just be the perfect time to start an offshoot group of
Orchid for those individuals who need an attitude adjustment. Some
people live for confrontation 

Maybe if we all stop feeding them they’ll dry up and go away :slight_smile:


#17

Hello Leonid,

I am sure as time goes by, we are going to find out who is dumping
Germanium and for what reason. We can speculate a little as well.
Germanium is used in Electronics and recycling electronic
components is a large problem. Refining to purity, so it can be
reused in microchips are expensive and may not even be possible.
So amount of useless Germanium is grows every day. Jewellery
Industry seems like a good place to dispose of it. 

The germanium used in Argentium silver alloys is all sourced from a
zone refined process which gives an extremely high purity material
(99.999+%). Germanium is most usually found as a by-product of the
zinc refining process (germanium and zinc are found in the same
ores) and is recovered from the flue dusts of zinc smelters. Given
the price increase in germanium over the last year if anyone knows of
a source of low cost germanium metal please let me know!

Charles Allenden
Argentium International


#18

Hi Leonid,

There are many alloy formulas to deal with firescale. 

I’ve always enjoyed your commentary, your outlook is refreshing. Over
the years I’ve run across a few silver formulations with an aluminum
content. They were very white and quite resistant to firescale and
tarnishing. The problem was very much similar to aluminum bronzes in
casting and that was heavy dross formation on the molten alloy.
Regular fluxes were useless in removing the dross and heavy skimming
had to be done before pouring. Fluoride fluxes were formerly used to
help remove the dross but were abandoned due to health risks. One of
my former employers had a patent on small aluminum additions to gold
dental alloys as both a deoxidizer and tarnish reducer from the
aluminum oxide film on the surface of the metal. The other problem
with aluminum additions were occluded aluminum oxide inclusions in
the metal on remelts.

Best regards,
Jim Sivertsen
United Technical Dept.


#19
To summarise their work, they found that high tarnish resistance
could be achieved in silver alloys containing 1% or less of
aluminium, beryllium or silicon if the aluminium, beryllium or
silicon was preferentially oxidised, in controlled atmospheres
with a low partial pressure of oxygen, to form a protective oxide
film. 

I have played with a couple of these alloys that we made in a button
melter (inert atmosphere small sample melting device). A couple of
major problems exist with these alloys and the ones that uses
titanium or molybdenum to harden the silver (aluminum also hardens
the silver). First they must be melted in inert atmospheres or the
alloying elements will oxidize in the crucible and float off as slag.
Second they are for the most part not reusable without refining. Once
oxidized the alloying elements cannot be reduced back to their
metallic state in situ. They must either be dissolved to separate the
metals and oxides or just melted in air so that the alloying elements
completely oxidize and float to the top of the melt as slag, but then
you have lost the tricky behavior of the alloy.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#20

Hi Andreas,

I know that questioning of the mistique of Argentium is a
sacriledge on this website

In response to your question, the S57NA master alloy mixed with fine
silveris compatable with torch melting.

Have fun and try new things,
Jim Sivertsen
United Technical Dept.
unitedpmr.com