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First Argentium Sterling Adventure


#1

well, i recently found out that argentium hardens mroe than
tradtional sterling. i was very excited about this because i have
lots of ideas that involve small gauge wire, and they would be
fabulous if the wire was hard.

so i ordered some argentium. i made all these little wire things,
felt very pleased about the way it soldered. the solder flows
similar to gold solder, and that was nice. had a little trouble
figuring out the hardness of the wire initially but nothing major,
and i figured it out just fine.

i got everything soldered and put together. the last step on this
jewelry is to ball up the ends of the thin wire. and guess what???
argentium silver does NOT like to ball up! now tomorrow i will go
back and re-do all this work i spent all day today doing. very
frustrating.

if there is a good way to make this stuff ball up, that would be
great. anyone???

what i learned is this: there is ALWAYS something good and bad about
everything, nothing is 100% “perfect”…which is something i
already knew, of course, but this experience just reminded me of
that! i might just stick with regular old sterling. we’ll see…

joanna gollberg


#2

Hi Joanna,

I had trouble balling the ends of Argentium sterling wire at first,
and have since discovered that it needs to be properly heat treated
(to raise the germanium). All the Argentium sterling I have purchased
recently has been from Rio, and it seems they sell it heat treated
now - I have no problems balling the ends on any gauge.

Donna
http://www.silversorceress.com


#3
i got everything soldered and put together. the last step on this
jewelry is to ball up the ends of the thin wire. and guess
what???? argentium silver does NOT like to ball up! 

Stick with it Joanna, I think you’ll find that Argentium Sterling
(AS) loves to ball up (and fuse) if you’ve got the heat, flame
direction, etc right. A delicate touch is the key: get it up to heat
and then gently nudge it with the flame once it starts to flow. Don’t
blast away once you get close to flow temp because it will just
crumble and drop off on you. Too much heat will spoil the pie, so to
speak.

Most of us who’ve switched over to AS have had to go through this
transition. Once you get it down you’ll see that it’s easier than
with regular sterling and, IMHO, you get superior results (no
pitting, etc). FWIW you just need clean wire, no flux etc is
necessary.

As ever you kilometrage may vary.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#4

Hi Joanna,

Here is a piece of my most recent article in Art Jewelry magazine. I
hope it helps!

The ball that is created by melting an end of Argentium[tm] Sterling
is usually smoother than a typical ball melted on the end of a
regular sterling wire. Most people have no difficulty transferring
their technique of melting a ball on the end of a wire to
Argentium[tm] Sterling. However, when I first tried, I had
difficulties: sometimes the ball fell off, and sometimes the wire
next to the ball got thin and scrawny-looking. Here are a few tips:

  • Clean the wire with a scotchbrite pad to remove any oil.

  • Remember to use as small and hot a flame as possible, as quickly
    as possible, so that the heat does not have time to travel up the
    wire.

  • For large wires, and/or large balls, try holding the torch flame
    below the end of the wire, so that it does not affect the wire next
    to the ball so much, causing it to also melt, which can make it thin.

  • Try holding the wire vertically, above a heat-reflective soldering
    surface, and melt the lower end of the wire. This set-up intensifies
    the heat at the end of the wire.

  • Flux is helpful, though it is not always necessary.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#5

If you dip the end of the wire in Battern’s flux (or the Rio
version), it balls up very nicely. In my experience, it does not ball
up well without the flux.

Leah
www.michondesign.com


#6

Hi Cynthia,

You and Trevor might remember me - you tried helping me with this
exact problem not too long ago. I took all your advice, tried every
imaginable way to get a smooth melt, and nothing worked. We thought
it might be a bad batch of argentium (I had purchased it from a
supplier who just recently added it to their catalog) but I have come
to the conclusion that it needs to be heat-treated before you touch a
torch to it. All of my recent purchases of Argentium sterling from
Rio melt like a charm, no matter how I heat it. Small flame, big
flame, where the flame touches the wire - they all work. It seems to
be practically fool-proof, no need to baby it at all.

My suggestion would be to heat-treat your argentium sterling if it
is giving you troubles - make sure to pickle the discoloration off -
I’ve found that this helps get a good melt on the end of the wire.
Donna

SilverSorceress Designs
Unique, handcrafted Silver and Gemstone Jewelry
http://www.silversorceress.com

Visit my studio/gallery in Bangor, Maine
19 Bomarc Rd.
Bangor, ME 04401
207-947-6200


#7

That’s interesting Donna, I just asked Rio last week if they heat
treated their Argentium and I was told they did not. If iyou refer to
my earlier post about problems about Argentium earrings tarnishing
badly it relates to this. If anyone from Rio is monitoring these
posts perhaps they could find out and definitively let us know if it
is sold heat-treated or not. And I guess it would be good to know if
other suppliers are doing the same.

G. Stokes


#8
If anyone from Rio is monitoring these posts perhaps they
could find out and definitively let us know if it is sold
heat-treated or not. And I guess it would be good to know if other
suppliers are doing the same.

There still seems to be some confusion about Rio’s Argentium
sterling products, let me clarify.

Rio Grande’s Argentium findings (beads, headpins, eye pins, ear
wires) are activated and ready to use. But our raw materials (sheet
& wire) are not activated. Activating the germanium is a final step,
it should only be done after the piece being created out of
Argentium sheet or wire is completed. Soldering, burnishing,
polishing, etc. done to Argentium sheet or wire will remove any
activated germanium oxide, so it really only makes sense to do this
at the end of the process.

Also, bear in mind that Argentium will naturally form a germanium
oxide layer over time. Activating the surface will build the
protective germanium oxide layer more quickly, but it will
eventually happen anyway.

Sincerely,

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Sales and Support
800-545-6566 ex 13903
technical @tbg.riogrande.com


#9

Hello Cynthia Eid,

I enjoyed your article in the current issue of Art Jewelry. Good
and I added a few bits to my memory banks.

On the Goddard’s polishing cloth, Stuller carries them and they are
nice!! I like your idea of cutting them into smaller pieces to
accompany a piece of jewelry.

Judy in Kansas, where we had a stormy, but rainy Wednesday night. It
seems that the weekend will be back into triple heat index though.
Now I love having my dungeon in the cool basement!


#10
If anyone from Rio is monitoring these posts perhaps they could
find out and definitively let us know if it is sold heat-treated or
not. And I guess it would be good to know if other suppliers are
doing the same. 

Ah shoot, and hello again,

I have been in contact with the engineers at the Argentium mill and
found out some of the I previously provided is out of
date and wrong. Sorry for the confusion. Argentium is such a new
product that process engineers at the mill are constantly looking
for better ways of manufacturing Argentium.

Due to these improvements, ALL ARGENTIUM SHEET & WIRE IS ACTIVATED
AT THE MILL. However, please keep in mind that, depending on what
you’re doing, working with the raw martial can effect the
activation. If you’re unsure always run it through a simple
activation process, 250f for 10 minutes or so.

It seems the early batches of Argentium were not activated. But over
time, better manufacturing processes have been implemented at the
mill, allowing for automatic activation of all Argentium sheet and
wire products. This is great news, and with mud in my face I
apologize for the erroneous info I passed along.

Thanks,

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Sales and Support
800-545-6566 ex 13903
technical@tbg.riogrande.com


#11

Hi Thackery,

Thanks for the update!

Hey, don’t blame yourself. If the folks back at the mill/lab had any
sense, they’d inform their dealers/users about changes they make
that have the possibility/probability of affecting the performance of
their product.

It seems to me that they’d want to publish a booklet/pamphlet about
their product with the various working & physical characteristics of
it.

Not casting any aspersions on either Trevor or Cynthia (What would
we do without them?) but I’ve not seen a whole lot of info from the
owner of the patent or their major US supplier.

Dave


#12

I’m a little late on this one. What exactly does activating
Argentium mean?

V.


#13
This is great news, and with mud in my face I apologize for the
erroneous info I passed along. 

Well gosh Thackeray, you’ve gone and thrown me through the loops!
Kidding, but I noticed that the activation temp and time has gone
from 300 degrees for 30 minutes down to 250 for 10?

Also, since you’ve tapped on affecting the activation through working
the material, that would mean finish all the way up to pre-setting or
just set/polish/bake and hope your stones don’t mind? 250 degrees
does sound better than 300 if this is the case. Even if it’s not hot
enough to bake a pizza.


#14
Kidding, but I noticed that the activation temp and time has gone
from 300 degrees for 30 minutes down to 250 for 10? 

The bake times for Argentium Sterling (AS)are generally pretty
flexible because it’s a more-is-better thing, but there are a few
points worth remembering:

  • baking at 250-300 C (not F) for 30+ mins is the precipitation
    hardening process, not the tarnish resistance “activation” process.
    Very different things with very different goals in mind.

  • if you’re simply trying to “activate” the AS then yes, baking at
    250-300 F (not C) will do that but as I’ve said it’s a
    heat-times-time thing, in other words it’s no biggie to lower the
    temp but you will need to extend the times to get the same
    "activation" effect, more or less.

For example I “activate” my AS by heating it to about 700 C for
about 15-20 seconds, a “quick bake” if you want to call it that. The
point is that a little heat for a long time will give roughly the
same effect as a lot of heat for a short time. And more is better so
don’t feel that you can over-do it because you can’t.

The more you heat AS --assuming you don’t take it above dullest
red-- the more the germanium will migrate toward the surface and
react with oxygen, thereby “activating” your AS more and more. As far
as I’ve been able to tell the net effect of more heatings is deeper
and deeper penetration of the tarnish resistant “skin” on the metal,
to the point where stock 2mm or thinner will become completely
"activated" such that no part of the metal is untreated, regardless
of whether you cut and score it or not. As ever your mileage may
vary.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#15

Hey Jaye,

but I noticed that the activation temp and time has gone from 300
degrees for 30 minutes down to 250 for 10? Also, since you've
tapped on affecting the activation through working the material,
that would mean finish all the way up to pre-setting or just
set/polish/bake and hope your stones don't mind? 

Activation can be heating at pretty much any temp, although I don’t
think I’d go below 250f and the longer the better. I used that time
and temp as a bare minimum.

Activation can be affected by polishing or sanding, but that’s not
to say these will completely remove the activation. There are just
too many variables to give a definitive “yes or no”. Experimentation
is key for every individual to find what applications suits their
particular needs.

Sincerely,

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Sales and Support
800-545-6566 ex13903
technical@tbg.riogrande.com


#16

Trevor,

The more you heat AS --assuming you don't take it above dullest
red-- the more the germanium will migrate toward the surface and
react with oxygen, thereby "activating" your AS more and more. As
far as I've been able to tell the net effect of more heatings is
deeper and deeper penetration of the tarnish resistant "skin" on
the metal, to the point where stock 2mm or thinner will become
completely "activated" such that no part of the metal is untreated,
regardless of whether you cut and score it or not. As ever your
mileage may vary. 

The germanium is not migrating anywhere near fast enough to act in
the way you describe. What is happening is the oxygen is diffusing
into the crystal matrix. Oxygen atoms are much smaller than the
metal atoms so they can slip in-between the metal atoms in the matrix
and easily diffuse deeply into the matrix. The metal atoms however
move much more slowly as they must either slip into a void in the
matrix or trade places with another atom or pair of atoms in the
matrix. So for a metal atom to move even a tenth of a millimeter
would take an inordinate amount of time.

Oxygen combines with the germanium and the silver. Silver will not
form a stable oxide compound but the germanium does. So as the metal
cools back down the silver releases any oxygen it has picked up but
the germanium does not. Germanium has a much greater affinity for
oxygen than the copper in the Argentium so it prevents the copper
combining with or holding on to any oxygen.

I know it is a nitpick but I can’t help it :slight_smile:

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#17

Hello Veronica,

I'm a little late on this one. What exactly does activating
Argentium mean? 

I don’t recall seeing an answer to your question yet so I thought
I’d volunteer a little info to help you get up to speed.

First of all, do try the “Search” facility on the Orchid Archives
(http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive) as that is highly
likely to give you lots of previous Orchid articles where this topic
has been discussed before.

But to answer your question directly I’ll say this: “activating"
Argentium Sterling (AS) is just a working term we’ve adopted to mean
"heat the metal so that the germanium migrates to the surface,
reacts with oxygen to form germanium dioxide and thereby protect the
metal from reacting with the atmosphere at it’s usual, unwanted
rate.”

touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/heat-treating-your-argentium-sterling.html

I’d also suggest you take a look at Cynthia Eid’s superb technical
paper on AS at http://www.cynthiaeid.com/argentium_1-5.html

Once you’ve digested that info you’ll be well on your way to
understanding what’s what with AS.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#18
... So for a metal atom to move even a tenth of a millimeter would
take an inordinate amount of time. 

I think we might be getting our wires crossed James. I’m not
suggesting that the germanium atoms migrate any specific distance.
What I am saying is that with enough heat treatment the tarnish
resistant layer will become quite thick, say 2mm or more. My point
was that is, or can be, desireable and repeatable and therefore
worthy of inclusion in the Argentium Silver worker’s bag of tricks.

As to the details of the metalurgy/chemistry behind that I really
couldn’t say. I’m sure your explaination is a worthy one.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#19
Oxygen combines with the germanium and the silver. Silver will not
form a stable oxide compound but the germanium does. So as the
metal cools back down the silver releases any oxygen it has picked
up but the germanium does not. Germanium has a much greater
affinity for oxygen than the copper in the Argentium so it prevents
the copper combining with or holding on to any oxygen. 
I know it is a nitpick but I can't help it :-) 

Actually, I wouldn’t say this is a nitpick at all! This actually
explains the whole thing about how AS can have a “layer” of
germainium oxide, but still look like normal sterling. There isn’t a
layer of germanium oxide like the nylon on tiger tail-- there is a
layer of sterling in which oxygen has penetrated and bound to
germanium, preventing more oxygen from binding with the copper,
causing tarnish. Right? Thanks so much-- now it makes sense.

Noel