Sugared silver was a technique used by southwestern U.S.
silversmiths before rolling mills were common in studios. "Sugared"
is just the nearest translation I could come up with. The Zuni term
translated to something like, “granules of sugar, not solid.” Since
granulation is a different process, we decided to call it "sugaring"
The process: Save sterling filings that have no solder from your
pieces you’ve filed. Draw a strong magnet through the filings to rid
it of any incidental iron. Sieve it so all the filings are of a
consistent size. Place a generous pile of filings on a paper plate or
sheet of paper, and set aside.
Deplete sterling silver to a fine silver surface (or cheat and use
fine silver to begin with). Mix Battern’s flux (or any liquid
self-pickling flux) half and half with water for a 50:50 ratio. Dip
the depleted silver into the mixture or use a brush to draw a pattern
onto the silver. If dipped, tap it on the edge to get rid of any
excess liquid. Immediately dip the piece into the filings which you
set aside. Tap off the excess. Remove any stray granules with a wet
brush, or draw designs with a wet brush. Where you have removed the
granules, it will be bright silver.
With a bushy flame, either from the top or the bottom, heat the
depleted silver base until you see the “flash,” indicating the
granules of silver have fused. Quench and check for any areas which
have not fused, and repeat the process in the areas needed. It will
not hurt if you fuse more granules over existing granules. The effect
is just more texture.
This process leaves a very textured surface. You can bright polish
it with compound and a bristle brush, or you can patinate it very
black, and knock off the top of the granules with a fine grit
sandpaper stick or those foam nail finishers. This has the effect of
bright stars in a velvet night.
It’s a pain the first couple of times you do it, until you figure
out just when the fusing takes place (e.g. the “flash”), but after a
short learning curve, you will find it really easy.