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Fumes from Oven Heating Argentium Sterling

I oven heated a piece of Argentium Sterling for an hour at 550
degrees. It produced fumes that irritated our eyes and throut. I am
concerned about the safety of the fumes. In researching this, I found
some from Cynthia Eid but it doesn’t really address the
risk of breathing in these fumes. Anyone have additional

(From Cynthia Eid)


OK, if you are like me, you may be wondering, “what’s the
catch?” I know that I was quite concerned about the safety of
germanium, and unwilling to just take the word of the guy in New
Mexico that I was buying the silver from at the time. I looked up
the MSDS on the web, and was appalled at the dangers listed for
germanium. But then, I decided to look up copper and silver to
compare. The even-longer lists of dangers for copper and silver
gave me a different perspective about the list for germanium.

My recent research for this article led me to this statement on
the web: “Germanium compounds appear not to be particularly
toxic. Fumes from compounds such as germanium tetrachloride
(GeCl4) irritate eyes and lungs.” (Chlorine is used for refining
germanium.) So, this led me to new worries: what should a
silversmith do to avoid creation of this compound? Would this
mean that one should avoid wearing Argentium [tm] in swimming
pools treated with chlorine? Or be careful using chlorine bleach
or cleaning compounds? Since salt is NaCl, would that mean that
it would be dangerous in a saltshaker?! I consulted with Sam
Davis, a chemical and mechanical engineer at Stern-Leach, who put
my fears to rest. He says, "The surface of Argentium [tm]
Sterling Silver has germanium which is oxidized to germanium
oxide. The reason this occurs is because germanium is an “oxygen
getter. " It has a high affinity for oxygen even at room
temperature. Germanium oxide is a very stable compound and will
not react with any form of chlorine (whether it be bleach, or
chlorine gas, or aqueous chlorine, or table salt) at normal
temperatures that a human would be exposed to.” Germanium oxide
reacts with chlorine around 1472 F/800 degC. Since this
temperature is above the melting point of Argentium [tm]
Sterling, it means that unless you are refining germanium, or
melting an Argentium [tm] Sterling saltshaker full of salt, there
is little risk for this toxic gas. Whew! I sure feel better now!
I also found this interesting note: “Certain germanium compounds
have a low mammalian toxicity, but a clear activity against
certain bacteria, which makes them of interest as
chemotherapeutic agents.”(6) N a t u r a l l y, one should always
use safe work habits when working with any metal. Wear a dust
mask and safety glasses for grinding or polishing. Use good
ventilation for soldering, grinding, and polishing. Don’t eat or
drink in the studio. Use common sense, and take precautions to
take care of your health and safety.

It is interesting to note that using Argentium [tm] Sterling
Silver could make many workplaces safer, since they will no
longer need to use cyanide and/or nitric acids to deal with
firescale if Argentium[tm] Sterling Silver is used rather than
regular sterling silver

I oven heated a piece of Argentium Sterling for an hour at 550
degrees. It produced fumes that irritated our eyes and throut. 

Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious but it is my guess that those
fumes are from your oven, not the Argentium Silver (AS).

As I mentioned elsewhere, I got the fumes too when I cranked my oven
up to those temps for the first few times, still do a bit. But it
happened whether there was AS involved or not so I don’t think it has
much to do with the AS itself.

If I was a betting man I’d say that it’s likely the insulation etc
around the oven that’s causing the smell. After all those are max
temperatures for most domestic ovens so we’re probably giving the
oven guts a good toasting by doing this.

As to the safety concerns I have nothing useful to offer other than
the obvious: ventilate well. For me the problem pretty much went away
after a few heatings.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit at

Hello Orchidland,

I agree with Trevor. My domestic oven has a cleaning cycle that goes
up to about 800 degrees F. It does create fumes and odors from the
food debris and the manufacturer notes that ventilation should be
used during the cleaning.

My next experiment will be to put some Argentium in the oven during
that cycle and see what happens. I’m thinking the metal should get
pretty stiff! Has anyone else tried this?

Judy in Kansas, who is already looking forward to Tucson and warmer


I’ve been traveling, so I missed the beginning of this thread… In
my experience, any fumes from heat treating are due to a dirty oven.
Also, remember that there is a range of temperatures that work: from
365 to 580 degrees. This is not a case of more heat being better. I
don’t think that putting your silver in during the oven cleaning
cycle will be helpful.

Cynthia Eid