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Silver Reticulation


#1

Today I received an offer simply too good to refuse, to make my own
sheet for reticulation.

I am downloading all the from Orchid’s archives on
reticulation. the I am asking for is the breakdown of
the percentages of metal to result in 800 Silver.

My mentor believes it is not 80% silver and 20% copper. He believes
there may be another alloy involved. My job is to determine the
actual alloy used.

I can only buy using an American Express Card. The sources for
reticulation silver do not accept my card. I do not have funds to
advance to my friend in using her Visa, so I am stuck.

The cost is also very high. If I can use some time and muscle, I am
willing to do so.

Advice please.
Thanks friends,
Terrie

enjoying actually getting my hands dirty again. Wish I still had my
own tools back, and the 10# bar of buillion.


#2

Terrie,

There are several combinations of silver and copper that will
reticulate. Two of the most common are 800 parts of pure silver to
200 parts of copper or 820 parts of pure silver to 180 parts of
copper. There are no other metals involved. You can confirm this in
many jewelry reference books or by sending e-mail to Stewart Grice,
the metallurgist at Hoover and Strong, who has worked extensively
with reticulation alloys.

You will find that rolling sheet reticulation silver is tricky as it
is a very stiff alloy and sensitive to being overheated during
annealing. I hope you have a powered rolling mill because it’s a
very long way from ingot thickness to the 18-24g where reticulation
silver really performs.

During the melt, be absolutely sure that you have a completely
molten mass – there is a wide temperature range during which you
will have some extremely runny metal and some chunks like gravel –
you will feel this with your carbon stirring rod. Do not pour until
all the metal is liquid.

Before you begin rolling, meticulously finish the sides and corners
of your flat ingot. Inspect it with a loupe and carefully file away
any cracks or crevices so that you have a beautifully smooth surface
on all sides. Any little flaw will rapidly develop into much more
serious cracking as you roll the ingot out. You must monitor the
edges throughout the rolling process and remove and smooth all areas
where cracks occur.

Once you have it smooth, anneal it very carefully. Coat the ingot
with borax-based paste flux to prevent fire scale; the flux will
also tell you when you have reached annealing temperature, because
the flux will be entirely transparent and will wet the surface of
the metal [i.e. look like liquid on the surface, not little balls or lumps]. Even better would be to coat the ingot with Prips and anneal
it in a kiln set to 1200 F. so that you know for sure you aren’t
overheating it. You will have to anneal every few rolls. Take it in
very tiny increments and use the scale on the top of the mill to
keep track of your tightening. I mark my place with a little magnet.

This alloy firescales far more readily than sterling [which is what
makes it work so well for reticulation], and firescale is brittle
and inflexible. It will fracture during rolling and craze the
surface of your ingot.

In order to get a sheet of reasonable size and quality, you will
have to give this process several hours of your careful attention.
As a learning exercise it’s worth doing once, but it is not at all
cost effective to do it often. I would suggest starting a
reticulation fund by labeling a jar on the kitchen counter and
emptying your change into it at the end of each day. In a couple of
weeks you will have enough for a nice sized, pristine sheet. You can
always pay for it by postal money order, a credit card is not
necessary. Refiners will also take a personal check if you are
patient and will give the check time to clear before they ship the
metal. I don’t wish to discourage you in this, but it is really a
time consuming task, and if your time in the studio is limited or
expensive [i.e. lesson time with your mentor], then it is not a good
economic strategy.

You should also call Hoover and Strong and request a copy of their
metals catalog, which is free. There is a nice article in it by
Steward Grice about reticulation that neatly puts all the
in one place. Stewart, a metallurgist with access to a
lab, worked with Andrew Nyce, a retired metallurgist, and myself to
do a careful scientific study of the reticulation phenomonon and the
results, without the mythology [and there is a lot of that on this
topic], are in those pages of the catalog. I think you’ll find it
helpful.

Good luck,
Anne Hollerbach


#3

Terri,

There are many other alloys that can be formulated, but 80/20
silver is the normal alloy used for reticulation It gives the best
control and allows more action on the metal surface. Having said
that, it is not absolutely necessary to use 80/20. You can use
common 925 SS if you wish. You just have to practice a bit more and
be careful with your touch control. I find a “Little Torch” with a Nr
5 or 6 tip…propane/O2 to be the best combination to get very nicely
controlled patterns on sheet up to 4sq in.

On 80/20 silver it is even better. Also, try things like laying some
scrap SS pieces onto the surface as you begin the texturing process
or add some small balls. Lay down a small piece of copper or other
metal and see what you get. Many interesting patterns can be had.

If you are not happy with using 925 silver and cannot get
reticulation silver, melt an ounce of 925 on a charcol block and put
in half of a clean old US penny (don’t use the modern clad pennies).
That should give a nice alloy.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


#4

The stuff called “reticulation silver” is just an alloy of silver
and copper. Formulas run from 800 to 830 parts per thousand silver,
the balance being copper. If you want to go with the 800 silver, you
would use 8 parts fine silver to 2 parts copper. Easy.

The proportions of silver to copper are not crucial to reticulation.
You can reticulate anything from sterling silver down to shibuichi,
which is clasically 25 parts silver, 75 parts copper. The key is to
alternately torch and pickle the sheet in order to deplete the
surface of copper, resulting in a “skin” of fine silver, which has a
higher melting point than the alloy. Then, you heat the silver until
the interior melts, and you can see rippling on the surface. I think
it is actually the blast of the torch gasses which contribute to the
rippling. Reticulating on an uneven surface also helps, as pointed
out in Carles Codina’s book.

FWIW, a tip which was passed on to me by John Hayes, which seems to
bear out in experience- you are better off reticulating on a
charcoal block rather than a soldering pad. Something about
soldering pads seems to hamper the reticulation. John believes that
outgassing from the pad is to blame.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#5

The Theory & Practice of Goldsmithing says that 800 silver is 800
silver and 200 copper.

Marilyn Smith


#6

Anne, Of course you are completely correct. I do thank you very much
for your as usual clear and concise explanation.

Saving change is a great idea. In the long ago past, I saved every
dime for a planned purchase. Lately it has been more the pennies. At
that my grandson just got $28.00 out of my most recent jar.

I have only the catalogs I managed to pick up in Tucson this year.
Hoover and Strong and Hauser and Miller are not included.

I will share your message with my partner in crime and the TA who is
willing to do the rolling for us. No it is not powered. Hugs and
thanks, Terrie