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Gimme sterling silver!


#1

I have lately been working in Argentium silver, having been drawn in
for all of the reasons with which everyone is familiar: low tendency
to tarnish, excellent ability to be fused without firescale, etc… As
far as I can tell, it lives up to the qualities which recommend it to
craft.

But, boys and girls, the stuff is cold. To my way of thinking, it
is… simply, aesthetically, awful. It lacks the warm, lustrous depth
of sterling.

There will, of course, be those who totally disagree - “de gustibus
non est disputandum” - but the question which I would raise is
whether we are carried away with what serves us in making our craft
easier as opposed to what yields a more aesthetically pleasing end
product. In short, do we aspire to create what is beautiful; or what
is handy?

:o))
Jim


#2
There will, of course, be those who totally disagree - "de
gustibus non est disputandum" - but the question which I would
raise is whether we are carried away with what serves us in making
our craft easier as opposed to what yields a more aesthetically
pleasing end product. In short, do we aspire to create what is
beautiful; or what is handy? 

Ditto! We should never forget that aesthetics override everything,
but very often we trap ourselves in technical merits of a material.
Instead of treating tarnish of the sterling as detriment, we should
take it into account and design things which look better "tarnished"
then dead-white and shiny.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#3

Hi Jim,

But, boys and girls, the stuff is cold. To my way of thinking, it
is... simply, aesthetically, awful. It lacks the warm, lustrous
depth of sterling. 

It’s interesting you should say that, because I was recently saying
the same thing to my husband. I have been using it for wedding bands
for quite some time now, as many of my clients in this area object to
gold for one reason or another. After making an “experimental” ring
for my husband out of it and having him wear it non-stop for 18
months (guinea pig!), it has definitely not tarnished, but it almost
looks like platinum to me. It hasn’t taking on that rich, almost
imperceptible patina that sterling takes on. Then again, it hasn’t
taken on that steely look that well-worn platinum can start to
develop. It definitely has its place, but I’m with you – traditional
sterling has characteristics that are unmatched by that of Argentium.

Jennie


#4

Hello Jim,

I have not much to say about argentium as I haven’t work with it but
I have heard some people say that it is great, I like sterling
silver it looks gorgeous if a really great design is made in this
material but I really hate how easy it gets those burns’ spots. Well
I am not super girl with the torch LOl but I have seen people with
more experience than me having a bit of a trouble with this issue. I
will really love to read what everyone things about both materials
and see what it will fits more to me!!!

Best regards,
Carolina Castaneda Bedoya
http://www.ticovista.com


#5

My personal opinion & experience with sterling silver and Argentium:

(Disclaimer: the more experience I get, the better my sterling
silver comes out, and the less I need Argentium!)

Color: Initially, sterling (ss) and Argentium (Arg!) look the same;
a bright white metal. After a bit of exposure to atmosphere, flame
and body oils, ss has a cool blue tint, and Arg! has a subtle yellow
(I/J diamond) tint. Kind of muddy, to my eyes.

Soldering: Arg! will wilt under the flame a lot quicker than ss.
(Hence the nickname, "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg!)

Fusing: If you don’t have fine silver, Arg! is the cat’s meow. No
solder needed, just observe carefully and have a delicate touch with
the flame. SS however, has to be soldered, every_single_seam. Guess
which one I use for loop-in-loop chains?

My experience is solely in fabricated jewelry, not casting or objects
like boxes/candlesticks. Eventually I will phase out Arg! > Given
what I do with silver, it just doesn’t meet my needs. Your mileage
will vary, depending on your talent, needs and skill.

My story, and I’m sticking to it.

Kelley Dragon


#6

Hi Jim,

Personally, I prefer the whiter color of Argentium (AS) to the color
of regular sterling. However, as you and others have said, these are
aesthetic choices - vive la diffrance! The physical assets of AS are
still the real selling point.

Judy in Kansas, where the daffodils are beginning to bloom and the
forsythia are close behind


#7

Hi Folks…

Personally, I prefer the whiter color of Argentium (AS) to the
color of regular sterling. However, as you and others have said,
these are aesthetic choices - vive la diffrance! The physical
assets of AS are still the real selling point. 

Actually, they both look good to me…

My personal ring, is a fire agate in a Donello
preset…sterling…

Kinda wish there were Argentium presets like that…

The std sterling looks good, too, because I wear it every day…

Just haveta polish it once in a while…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)


#8
Color: Initially, sterling (ss) and Argentium (Arg!) look the
same; a bright white metal. After a bit of exposure to atmosphere,
flame and body oils, ss has a cool blue tint, and Arg! has a
subtle yellow (I/J diamond) tint. Kind of muddy, to my eyes. 

Hi all. This statement really caught my eye, in light of an email I
got yesterday. I’ve been making hoop earrings out of Argentium, and a
customer reported that the ones she bought had a slight goldish tint.
I sure hope this is not a tradeoff that will negate the anti-tarnish
benefits. Since I’m not applying any heat, firescale is not an issue.
I’m just concerned with ease of upkeep. I really am wondering if
Argentium is worth the extra expense in this case. Maybe regular
sterling with a Renaissance wax buff would work as well for less. Any
thoughts? Thanks!

Allan
www.silvermason.com


#9

Hello Allan,

It’s not that Argentium “doesn’t tarnish” - it tarnishes more slowly
and to a lesser extent… however, it WILL tarnish. Argentium is
properly called “tarnish resistant.” If you lay a piece of Argentium
and regular sterling side by side in the atmosphere for a while, you
will notice the difference in rate of tarnishing. Argentium tech
sheets do say to use separate mops to avoid contaminating the surface
from other metals.

The slight goldish tint on the Argentium earrings sounds like light
tarnish. Removing the tarnish is not difficult. Your customer should
try a little wash with mild soap and an old toothbrush, or just wipe
down with a polishing cloth.

Judy in Kansas


#10

I have some Argentium that has been in my safe for a couple of years.
It is still in the bag that came in from the vendor. I pulled it out
the other day and noticed the yellow color you are referring to. It
covered the whole sheet except where the sticker that was on the
outside of the bag was. This makes me think there is a photo reactive
aspect to this type of tarnish. I am curious as to what this is. I
have some standard sterling that has been in the same location in the
same type of bag and sticker but it does not show this type of
tarnish.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#11

Allan,

My students and I have been using United Metal’s S88 sterling silver
for a few years now, and we really like not only it’s working
characteristics, but also it’s tarnish and fire scale resistance. It
is not commercially available in wire or sheet stock, as far as I
know, but it is really a pleasure to work with, with great color!

Jay


#12

Hi Allan,

This statement really caught my eye, in light of an email I got
yesterday. I've been making hoop earrings out of Argentium, and a
customer reported that the ones she bought had a slight goldish
tint. I sure hope this is not a tradeoff that will negate the
anti-tarnish benefits. Since I'm not applying any heat, firescale
is not an issue. I'm just concerned with ease of upkeep. I really
am wondering if Argentium is worth the extra expense in this case.
Maybe regular sterling with a Renaissance wax buff would work as
well for less. Any thoughts? 

Heat accelerates the formation of the germanium oxide. If you are
not applying any heat to make these hoops, then it is a race between
the atmosphere and the germanium: who will be first? Will the
germanium grab the oxygen and form germanium oxide, protecting the
surface? Or will the atmosphere attack the surface, and create
tarnish before the germanium oxide forms?

If you wish to ensure that the germanium oxide wins the race, there
are a a couple of things that you can do:

  1. Heat the Argentium Silver. Heat hardening the AS will also help
    create germanium oxide (instructions in my articles, which are on my
    site, Rio Grande’s site, and www.argentiumsilver.com)

  2. If don’t wish to subject the AS to that much heat, 10-30 minutes
    at 250 degrees F will help create germanium oxide without
    discoloring from heat. I suggest using a clean, open Pyrex dish in a
    toaster oven.

  3. Additional tarnish “insurance” can be gained by rubbing with a
    cloth (or dipping in a liquid) that contains thiol. At this time, the
    only product that I know that has this is Goddard’s Long Shine cloth
    and liquid.

So, I would suggest at least one of the above for the hoops that
make in the future. Send your current customer a Goddard’s cloth.

I have taken traditional sterling silver and Argentium Sterling
Silver, and put them side by side. To my eye, when they have the same
finish on them, they look the same.

Personally, I don’t miss applying flux all over my silver to prevent
firescale. Additionally, I am pleased not to have to re-polish
silver anymore, and to have work return from an exhibition looking
good. My family and friends near the sea shore, and near the sulfur
springs of Colorado, love the Argentium Silver jewelry I’ve given
them, because they don’t need to clean it as often as their other
sterling jewelry.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/


#13

James,

I have some Argentium that has been in my safe for a couple of
years. It is still in the bag that came in from the vendor. I
pulled it out the other day and noticed the yellow color you are
referring to. It covered the whole sheet except where the sticker
that was on the outside of the bag was. This makes me think there
is a photo reactive aspect to this type of tarnish. I am curious as
to what this is. I have some standard sterling that has been in the
same location in the same type of bag and sticker but it does not
show this type of tarnish. 

I have seen this many times in both light and no light. I have
always assumed that the plastic was out-gassing and causing the
tarnish, and thus airflow restriction caused by the sticker greatly
slowed the tarnish under it.

It is important to remember that though a plastic storage bag can
hold air it is in fact only for about a short period of time and
that it will provide a small amount of back and thru airflow due to
changes in air pressure caused by weather, doors opening, heating
and AC. Every time air flows into the bag it takes small amounts of
formaldehyde and chemical by-products of solvent reduction; I think
this is the cause of the tarnish.

Dan
PS sorry for the slow reply, I was busy for a change.


#14
I have seen this many times in both light and no light. I have
always assumed that the plastic was out-gassing and causing the
tarnish, and thus airflow restriction caused by the sticker
greatly slowed the tarnish under it. 

I think it is a combination of both outgassing and permeation of
oxygen through the bag wall. Polly bags are very permeable to
gasses.

It is important to remember that though a plastic storage bag can
hold air it is in fact only for about a short period of time and
that it will provide a small amount of back and thru airflow due
to changes in air pressure caused by weather, doors opening,
heating and AC. Every time air flows into the bag it takes small
amounts of formaldehyde and chemical by-products of solvent
reduction; I think this is the cause of the tarnish. 

The main tarnish cause is burning fossil fuels and the sulfur that
is present in them. It is everywhere but heavier concentration in
urban areas. The rapid rate of tarnish of silver alloys is a modern
(post industrial revolution) problem.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts