You can mix Argentium and sterling with no problems. Argentium melts
at a slightly lower temperature, and thus I would recommend avoiding
using your “hard” regular sterling solder-the rest will be fine. It’s
good to switch over to the Argentium solders though. They are well
spaced temperature wise and are visually well-matched. But note that
you won’t be fully reaping the advantages of Argentium until you go
I do not have much experience with adding patinas to sterling, but
have been using acid based blackeners and liver of sulphur okay. I
think they may be a bit slower to react. Etching with nitric acid is
exactly the same.
I use all the same tools, sandpapers, files, soldering boards and
buffs up to the final polish with ZAM, which, BTW, is a cool product
as it does not affect your softer stones at all, and both cuts and
leaves a fine finish. I reserve ZAM buffs for each metal type, as I
believe a thin film of regular sterling could be burnished into the
Argentium, ruining the excellent anti-tarnish properties that I
switched to Argentium for. Also, I think you’re asking for scratches
during polishing by mixing metal of different hardness on your buffs.
Oven hardening of Argentium is optional, but if you do it, the
results are a really hard piece. I use a toaster oven to harden hand
fabricated pieces-2 hours or more at its maximum temperature
(measured at 490F). The hardness that results means it will hold a
high gloss finish for a longer time, and looks more like Rhodium
plated white gold-high gloss, pure white-really lovely. Also, I am
finding I can make more delicate settings, as the hardened Argentium
is much harder than hardened regular sterling. That characteristic
alone is opening up creative possibilities for me. I find my cast
work is surprisingly hard, so much more than I ever believed
possible from a sterling alloy. I use a longer cool down period than
regular sterling before quenching the flask, as recommended.
BTW, it surface hardens well with steel shot tumbling, if you don’t
like the oven route.
While soldering Argentium, support your work, as thinner Argentium
can collapse, let it cool down to a non-visible heat (not red) before
quenching in water (it can break), and try to avoid overheating.
Argentium fuses readily-which I find so handy. I often fuse the base
structure of my pieces first, and then solder on settings, smaller
pieces, etc. without having to worry about anything falling apart nor
having to be at all careful about it.
J. Van Daele, multimedia