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Texturing Advice

Does anyone have some advice on how to achieve a texture like in the pendant below. I’m interested in getting these organic textures that have a bit of randomness to them. I will be trying to get this texture on brass (85/15 alloy). Any advice is appreciated!

Look at reticulation.

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It doesn’t work on brass as far as I know.

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I was thinking reticulation too, or perhaps the similar yet less technical version commonly known as “damn near melted it!” I’d get a few disks of your chosen alloy and heat the first until you just completely melt and destroy it- remember what that looked like as it happened and how long it took to get there. Then do it again on the next, but stop a moment sooner. Repeat until you find your sweet spot.

I guess the other way to go about it would be to reticulate a piece of silver, make a mold of it, and then cast it in brass. Idk how good the details would be, but if the brass won’t do the same thing on its own…?

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Reticulation on silver is achieved by heating and pickling around 10 times to bring the fine silver to the surface (while getting rid of the surface copper). Copper melts at a higher temperature than silver. When you heat the prepared piece of sheet silver the surface fine silver melts first and “slides” on the copper below. This is why brass doesn’t reticulate. (Sorry if this is too simplistic…I’m not a scientist!)

Your prep advice is correct, but the reason reticulation achieves the results it does in different than what you wrote.
Repeatedly heating and pickling a sheet of sterling does build up layer of fine silver, by oxidizing then removing the copper at the surface. But what you’re left with is a thin layer of fine silver on sterling.
Sterling melts at a lower temperature than does fine silver. When you heat the prepared piece the sterling interior will begin to melt before the surface layer of fine silver. As the sterling begins to move the fine silver surface remains solid, but because it is so thin it will wrinkle and shift with the movement of the near molten sterling underneath it.
Folks who practice reticulation regularly are able to guide the shape of the surface wrinkles to some extent by using the pressure of the torch’s flame to push the fine silver surface this way and that. At least, that’s what some writers claim is possible. At any rate, as the sterling body begins to melt the fine silver surface will develop wrinkles and other textures.

I imagine that the reason reticulation won’t work on brass or bronze is that it may not be possible to build up a high melting point surface skin. You’d need to remove the zinc or tin leaving a skin of copper, which then would have a higher melting point than the body alloy. I suppose there could be chemical processes that would leach the alloying white metal out of the brass or bronze, but there’d likely be some very dangerous chemicals involved.

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I too thought reticulation and lightly, then rolled in a rolling mill but not hard.

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Thanks for the tips on reticulation guys. I did experiment with the “damn near melt it” technique and got some great results. Once I dip my toes into casting I like the idea of reticulating silver and making a mold, good solution.

Cheers everyone, yet again y’all are too helpful!

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A good friend of mine has a whole line of jewelry that is all reticulated metal, cast into brass and then plated. The casting carries the texture beautifully, so you shouldn’t have any problem with that!

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Thank you! When I was writing my description one little brain cell was saying “wait…is that right?” It is obviously fine silver floating on a more melted Sterling base. It’s all about who melts first. And there is no “copper layer.” Glad you caught this…I really hate having bad info floating out there on the internet.

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Make a mold, print the pattern on brass clay, fire, and finish.

When you reticulate high karat gold or silver, do you heat and drop in pickle or heat, cool and drop? Thank you. This was very enlightening.

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Since you need to heat and pickle the piece many times, I suggest letting it cool before putting it in hot pickle. This will minimize the possibility of cracks developing due to thermal shock.
Also, high karat gold is probably not a good candidate for reticulation. You want to use an alloy that will have a significant difference in melting points between the body and the purer skin. A high karat alloy may melt too close to pure gold to readily control the process.
Also, pickling generally will not remove much silver from the piece, so you’d wind up with an Au-Ag-Cu alloy body and an Au-Ag skin. You’d have to find the phase diagrams of these alloys to know if the melting points will work for reticulation.
If you started with a copper only gold, like red gold, you’d develop a 24K skin on it, and the reticulation would probably be nicely controllable.
Again, you should look at the phase diagrams of these alloys, if you can find them, so you don’t wind up with too much going into the scrap bin.

Following is a link to two pictures of similar looking pendants. One is reticulated 90/10 silver, the other is a casting from the end of a fossil found along the shores of Skaneateles Lake. The reticulated pendant is made using standard reticulation. The fossil is done using delft clay. There is a PDF on my website that explains this process.

Author Jan Looney included directions on how to reticulate brass in her book, Metal Jewelry Made Easy. (It was one of the first jewelry instruction books I bought.) I’ve never actually tried to reticulate brass----I understand that it takes a very robust ventilation system—but she has many examples in her book. Just sayin’.

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Definitely looks like reticulated metal. You can reticulate gold. I had some lovely big reticulated gold earrings many years ago but it’s a bit of a chancy technique. I suggest reticulating silver and get it cast it gold if you want the effect in gold.

I didn’t know that. I will take a look. Thanks…Rob