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Soldering sterling bezels to argentium

Hi, I am about to try working with Argentium. I am an experienced
self-taught jeweler that actually made a living doing some of the
better shows in Ohio, with an occasional out of state show. I also
worked with a few good galleries over the years. I am at 66, not in
the greatest health, but still enjoy working with my toys in the
shop. I have seen your info on a Google search, and wondered about
DVDs or some other info to help get me started. I have already
purchased easy, medium, and hard solder, plus some wire from Hoover
and Strong to make what used to be my bread and butter twisties
(rings), as a practice exercise. I don’t anticipate any real
problems, having made thousands of these simple rings over the years,
but with this forum available it seemed silly to not ask. I have
sterling bezel tubes that I kept in stock for putting stones on these
little rings. Should I anticipate any sort of problem using these
with the Argentium, other than a color variation? Where do I get
detailed info (DVDs, etc.), without doing seminars as I don’t travel
well any longer? I will appreciate any input anyone out there feels
like offering, thanks, Thomas III

Hello Thomas,

I have had no problem soldering regular sterling to Argentium (AS)
and vice versa. There are many findings and other bits that are not
available in AS, so it then becomes necessary to either fabricate the
item - such as tubing or bezel cups - or use the two alloys in the
same piece.

That said, you should be aware that AS becomes ‘brittle’ when heated
to soldering temperatures. For example, I can grip regular sterling
bail with soldering tweezers, pick up a bit of solder and solder it
to a pendant; a bail of AS would break apart where the tweezers grip
it. Understanding that characteristic, you need to think a little
differently about how to set up your pieces before you solder. Also
AS tends to slump more quickly than regular sterling.

A very nice characteristic of AS is that a piece does NOT have to be
heated completely to induce solder flow. It is more like soldering
gold in that respect. I also REALLY, really like the AS solders. They
flow at a slightly lower temperature and the color match is very
good. An added benefit related to tarnish resistance is that solder
is less visible over time.

I encourage you to just do it. Keep in mind the characteristics and
you will pick up on the techniques quickly with a bit of
experimentation. (At least that’s how I learned.) The Rio Grande
website has some good info: “Working with Argentium[tm] Silver. Tips
& Procedures” By Cynthia Eid. I hope Cynthia will chime in here. If
there are any DVDs, she is likely to know.

Let us know how you fare. I’m sure you can handle this and if you
have specific questions, DO ask.

Judy in Kansas, where the termites ate heartily and now the repair
folks are busy on my house. Cursed little insects!

Thanks Judy, just the sort of thing that will save me some time and
money, not to mention accomplishing these early easy things without
hassle. While I don’t think gold is the only “real jewelry”
(everything else being crap, apparently), one of the things that drew
me to AS was that I read it worked very clean, and was more
malleable. I do love working with high kt golds, and it is not only
the money that keeps me from doing more with it now days. I have
watched the devastation that those silly reality shows have brought
home through video. The guilt baggage from all the many ounces I have
casually worked with becomes heavier as I get older. I backed myself
into a corner as I got better at more technique, by doing more and
more in those high kt golds, till even most of my best affluent
customers could no longer afford what I was making. I quit for a
number of years and built a house for my cousin, and began working
toward large scale sculpture. When my health began to catch up to me
I could no longer move big pieces of rock, wood and metal around
without help, I went back to my roots, and am now a rock hound again.
The custom stuff that my long time customers bring me are almost all
gold. This is me, looking for an alternative, so I’ll get back with
you soon. Thomas III

Hello Thomas,

Glad to have offered some useful Since you have
experience working in gold, you should enjoy AS. High kt gold is
lovely, but does come with some ‘baggage’ and a high price.

Best of luck, Judy in Kansas