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The Zen of Argentium Sterling silver


#1

I must admit that the concerns expressed here on Orchid recently
about the use of Argentium Sterling (AS) have been rather
disheartening.

As much as I can appreciate the fact that getting accustomed to a new
alloy can take a little time I can’t for the life of me understand
why new users of the metal would criticize it for not being exactly
the same as other metals they have used. After all, why try something
new if the old one was what you wanted? And if you do try something
new wouldn’t you expect there to be a little transition time and
effort?

For those unfamiliar with my posts here on Orchid, and the blog at my
site, I’ll be up front about this: in my experience Argentium
Sterling silver is basically god’s gift to silver workers. I won’t
reiterate it’s benefits here because that’s another topic(s) and
they’ve been discussed elsewhere. But what I will say is that I have
found AS to be a truly superior product to work, own and sell and it
pains me to see people taking shots at it without taking the time to
get to know it. It is so unfair, and unnecessary.

This is especially true because the Argentium Sterling people have
gone out of their way to help Orchid members in any way they can.
They’ve bent over backwards to give us the we want and/or
need to get started with it and they really don’t deserve to have
their product slagged or discredited, especially for reasons that
often turn out to largely be field reports from the learning curve.

It seems to me that if someone came on and said “OMG my white gold
cracked!”, or “why can’t I solder platinum with my little butane
Microtorch?” we’d be pretty quick to tell them to do their research
and then to work with the metal in order to know what they are doing.
Argentium Sterling is, and should be, no different.

Over and above how much I enjoy working with AS and how much I
appreciate the fact that this wonderful, and --yes, I’ll say it –
revolutionary metal is available to us and our customers I can’t help
but think that the newcomers to it need to chill out a bit before
they fly off the handle in fear that they’ve been somehow hoodwinked
because AS doesn’t behave exactly like the standard sterling that
they are familiar with. Well, guess what: it behaves a little
different because IT IS a little different. Not hugely, but a little.
It behoves the student to learn from their observations rather than to
criticize their observations for being unfamiliar.

Learn those few differences of Argentium Sterling and you’ll find
yourself working with a fantastic alloy that will, I believe, change
silver working as we’ve known it. Make some stuff with it. Wear that
stuff yourself for a while. Experiment. Push. Discuss. And above
all, learn! Some of us are already well on our way. What’s keeping
you?

If nothing else ask a silver fancying customer if they’d like silver
jewelry that tarnishes very little, very slowly, if at all and
they’ll probably tell you that they’ll take as much of that stuff as
you can offer them. I know, I’ve seen it. And if my guess is right
you will too, one way or the other.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#2

Thank you Trevor,

thankyou for your comments regarding Argentium. Now, I have been
following this thread of thought and I have a few questions. I smith
sterling, does argentium smith? Can I hammer away at it like I do
with sterling? And have we figured out how to enamel on it yet?

I look forward to your comments here. thanks again.

Jennifer Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan, ceremonial silver


#3

Hello Trevor;

I don’t get the impression that people are necessarily putting
Argentium down for not being all things to all people. They’re just
starting to learn what it is. And I didn’t read all the posts. But
your “Zen” bit got my attention. Here’s what I told Peter Johns. I
believe that every metal, or any material for that matter, has a
particular set of characteristics waiting to be exploited, and to
blindly apply that material to a situation that misunderstands it’s
applicability to that situation is a mistake. On the other side,
those mistakes are intrinsic to the learning process. I’ve said that
about most platinum casting. Platinum is a fabulous material for
fabrication, but if a goldsmith who doesn’t know about it carves a
wax and has it cast, it’s not unusual for him or her to end up with
either an excessively heavy slug of pitted metal, or a model which
simply won’t fill, before he or she catches on. I’ve had Argentium
crumble when I grabbed it with tweezers when it was hot. I simply
filed that bit of observation for further use. I haven’t done much
work with Argentium yet, but the quality of it’s immunity from the
dreaded “fire stain” and it’s ability to be heat tempered to such a
degree of rigidity, leads me to believe it’s going to allow much
more interesting solutions with regards to fabrication. That said, I
think that one of the best ways to learn about a material is to push
it to the point of failure. Not only does it tell you how far you
can’t take something, it makes you try to understand the temperament
of the material that made it fail in just the manner and in the time
that it did. And thank you for being, apparently, so far, Orchid’s
foremost pioneer in bringing us about this new alloy.

David L. Huffman


#4

What I see happening is that we are all struggling with the
different (not bad) qualities of this alloy and are all anxious as
hell to get it right because of the properties it will yield once
mastered. Yes, frustration is occurring - habits die hard, but be
patient with us and we will try to be patient with new materials and
learning how to use them to their best advantage. I think it’s a good
thing and like any other new thing you take a few steps backwards
before going forward. But, again, I will say, I wish the companies
selling the product would do their share of experimentation to save
us some of the failure and maybe as a result of this forum that will
happen.

Grace


#5

Hi Trevor.

I am eager to work with the new Argentium Sterling alloy and will
definitedly count your blog as the current how-to for my learning
needs.

We have applauded the appearance of the new alloy in the catalogs of
our favorite suppliers and lamented their lack of related
comprehensive

FWIW, I think that our own Orchid may have had a hand in this
situation. We are welcoming the involvement of our industry
suppliers on this list and repeatedly have expressed our hope that
they are listening and taking note of our complaints and our needs.
Those suppliers savvy enough to monitor this forum have gained global
real-time awareness and some have responded quickly to improve their
services.

In this case, it may be that they have witnessed (here on Orchid)
our growing interest in this revolutionary new alloy, recognized the
implications for our industry, not to mention the potential value
for their market and moved as quickly as possible to place it in
their inventory. This could explain the offering of the milled
product before the Argentium solders were available as well as their
current deficit of supporting documentation on the alloy.

We have expressed our desire for better and I am certain
that the suppliers will soon add the pertinent to their
catalogs, websites and perhaps even include a tip sheet with orders.

In light of the comprehensive voice of this forum and the
involvement of many allied organizations we should probably brace
ourselves for experiencing such real-time responses.

In hindsight, I wonder if discussions on Orchid may have in a small
part contributed to the recent formation of the White Gold Task Force
and their creation of a white gold index. See:

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/understanding-the-new-mjsa-wgc-white-gold-color-index

Thank you Hanuman, Charles, and our world-wide community.

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com


#6

All metals have their own special treatments for working ,annealling
and soldering. As for Argentium Silver, all of you orchidians that
use it be thankful you can get it. Argentium was invented over here
in the UK by Peter Johns in association with a college in Middlesex
but us goldsmiths in the UK cannot buy the metal from our usual
bullion dealers in the UK. Peter has been having problems finding a
bullion manufacturer to alloy the metal and market it.I was told
that there were possibilities that the metal would be alloyed in
Finland and exported to the UK, but as of today I have not heard any
more details. Perhaps there are some orchidians in the UK who can
let me know where to buy Argentium Silver as I would love to have
the oppertunity to work the metal and find out its capabilities. I
have been waiting two months for a Rio Grande catalogue, so I really
see no way of importing the metal from the USA. As with many things
in the UK, our people come up with a good idea, but it takes other
countries to expand the ideas into production. One last note to add,
there was a posting on red golds recently, well I do a lot of work
in coloured golds and the best red gold that I can buy over here in
the UK is a 20ct. red, available from an old established small
London bullion dealer called http://www.jblundell.co.uk/index.asp,
The 20ct red gold is the best red I have ever used in my long
experience as a goldsmith. peace and good health to all you
metalworkers.

James Miller
https://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/jmdesign.htm


#7

. . And thank you for being, apparently, so far, Orchid’s
foremost pioneer in bringing us about this new alloy.

Hi All;

As soon as I clicked on the “send” button I realized that Cynthai
Eid has also been a major contributor, here on Orchid, of information
about Argentium. Thank you also, Cynthia.

David L. Huffman


#8
... I smith sterling, does argentium smith? Can I hammer away at it
like I do with sterling? 

Hello Jennifer. Argentium Sterling (AS) is better for smithing work
than regular sterling if you ask me because (a) no concerns about
firestaining the metal (ever!) and (b) greater ductility means less
annealing. It’s very nice to go from anvil to torch to quench and
back to anvil without having to firecoat or pickle. I LOVE forging
Argentium Sterling (AS) and have since done a few anticlastic
bracelets and several rings.

Argentium Sterling + hammer + anvil + torch = metalworking bliss,
IMHO. :slight_smile:

Check out the stuff related to the spoon on my blog. I start with a
little billet of AS, 95 x 12 x 5 mm, and work it through to a
large-ish tablespoon. See the following blog entries:

“The oxide thing”
“Some thoughts on work hardening”
“Oxide and annealing footnotes”
“Be it ever so humble … it’s finished!”
"Additional comments on the spoon project"
And the follow-up posts:
“Spoon news (tarnish resistance update et al)”
“Spoon update - May '05”

The main page of the blog is at
http://www.touchmetal.com/blog/argentium-blog.html

The index to all the blog entries is in the right hand column.

And have we figured out how to enamel on it yet? 

That I can’t comment on because I’ve simply never done it and
wouldn’t really know where to start. Frankly I’m just as curious as
you about that one.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#9

Jennifer,

I smith sterling, does argentium smith? Can I hammer away at it
like I do with sterling? And have we figured out how to enamel on
it yet? 

Please read Cynthia Eid’s very informative article;
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/ms-05-07.html

She posted this link on Orchid yesterday. Also read Trevor’s blog,
which also has much good on Argentium.

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com


#10

Excellent observations, David L. Huffman. We have to experiment -
each one of us. Trevor and Cynthia have both shared what they have
learned, and Trevor’s blog is quite useful. Their observations, if
applied to one’s own experiments, will help with shortening that
learning curve! That said, get out there everyone, experiment, play,
and let us know when you are surprised.

The characteristic of AS to become brittle when heated is rather
eye-opening, but is easily adjusted to when you consider that you
don’t have to pickle and rePrip’s through several steps. YES!!
(fist pump)

I’m LOVIN’ it!

Judy in Kansas, where a cool front has brought some refreshing
showers. Looking forward to a wonderful weekend.


#11
  I smith sterling, does argentium smith? Can I hammer away at it
like I do with sterling? And have we figured out how to enamel on
it yet? 

Hi Jennifer,

YES! Argentium is FABULOUS for smithing, forming, pressing…it
has wonderful ductility and malleabilty properties!

As far as enameling, some people have had modestly successful
results, and some have had failures. Peter Johns is developing an
alloy especially for enameling, so hold tight!

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


#12
... Cynthia Eid has also been a major contributor, here on Orchid,
of about Argentium. Thank you also, Cynthia. 

Hello David,

Absolutely! It was Cythia’s work with Argentium Sterling (AS) that
encouraged me to get started on it in the first place. She’s written
the text, I’ve just been doodling in the margins.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in the City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#13
... I was told that there were possibilities that the metal would
be alloyed in Finland and exported to the UK, but as of today I
have not heard any more details. 

Hello James. You heard right, at least about it being made in
Finland. The company is Kultakeskus (www.kultakeskus.fi). If you’re
interested email me offline and I’ll give you my contact info. It’s
actually a UK guy running the plant there. I bought 1.5 kilos of 5mm
plate from them which, if I understand things correctly, is how they
prefer to sell it. I roll my own stock from chunks I cut from the
plate. I’ve been very happy with their alloy.

You can also order from Stuller in the States. I’ve ordered their
Argentium Sterling solder and had no problems with the export/import
procedures. I’m in France though so our situations are not exactly the
same.

I’d bet that you could also order from Rio if you just called them
and asked for the international sales department. I’ve dealt with
that department in the past and for the most part they are reasonably
up to speed on the particulars of exporting to the European
countries.

It is my understanding that the supply situation for the EU is about
to improve significantly. A big UK metals supplier is beginning
production later this year so by the new year or thereabouts we should
have our supply problems solved.

If I can be of further assistance with this or related matters please
don’t hesitate to ask.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com