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Thinking about using Argentium


#1

Hello,

I have been researching argentium silver and thinking about
transferring over to using it. Although I don’t want to do away with
using traditional sterling silver, I have some questions in using
it.I am hoping someone can answer my questions!

  • Can I combine sterling silver and argentium? I have a lot of
    sterling silver rectangular and round wire, sterling silver tubing,
    etc, that I use, and would like to use it with argentium sheet. Will
    there be any issues that arise from the solder process to the finish
    process? I understand I need to use argentium solder with argentium
    silver, so will argentium silver solder be compatible with sterling
    as well? Or if I use argentium sheet, will everything I use in the
    piece that I solder to it, need to be strict ly argentium?

  • I etch and patina my surfaces, and wondered if I use argentium in
    these processes, what I can expect. I understand liver of sulphur
    will be a slower process for argentium?

  • Do I need to buy separate files and sandpaper for the argentium if
    I only use sterling silver in my studio? Or, is it required that I
    buy separate polishing buffs, files, sandpaper, etc for anything I
    use with argentium? Trouble is, I would like to combine my sterling
    with argentium, so I am not sure if using the same tools for
    sterling and argentium will create problems. I understand that Handi
    flux could stain, so I need to buy a different flux.

  • Why do you harden argentiumin general? is it just to activate the
    anti-tarnish properties? Can you just solder and finish your piece
    without putting it in the oven?

  • Finishing: do you need to use the general polishing sequence of
    tripoli, white diamond, and red rouge with argentium?

Thank you in advance for your help and !!
Adrienne


#2

Hello Adrienne, Although Cynthia Eid is the AS guru, I’ll dive in
here responding to your questions.

  1. Yes, you can combine AS and standard sterling. I do it all the
    time. There will be a bit of a learning curve as AS is more brittle
    when hot and you can’t put much pressure on it until it cools. Do
    some experimenting to find out how it behaves.

  2. Do use AS solder on standard sterling - it will flow at a little
    lower temperature, but has a better color match with sterling, and
    the tarnish factor is less of a problem. In fact, I use AS medium
    solder routinely with standard sterling - I like it better!

  3. So far as finishing, you should not have any problems with pieces
    containing both AS and sterling. AS will tarnish, just more slowly.
    You will need to experiment with your patinas to see how they will
    work and you may find that heating the solutions will make a
    difference.

  4. I solder “pure” AS on a separate brick and pickle it separately.
    It may not be necessary, though. I can’t see any difference with the
    pieces that are mixed AS and sterling, which are soldered and pickled
    on the standard sterling brick.

  5. I use the same tools on both AS and standard sterling. There does
    not seem to be any contamination problem.

  6. Heat “hardening” is not necessary unless you need a stiffer
    product because the gauge is thin or the piece is delicate. Even
    then, in a mixed piece, the heat will not affect the standard
    sterling other than to hasten development of tarnish.

  7. Your polishing process does not have to be different with AS. I
    have had good results with Zam. I also like the 3M bristle wheels and
    I find tumbling with steel shot to work well.

I hope this helps. Do check out the tech sheets on the AS website

My answers are based on my experience, not rigorous scientific
testing, so your mileage may vary. Anyway, welcome to the wonderful
world of AS and say farewell to fire scale!

Judy in Kansas, who is on grandbaby alert. She should arrive soon!


#3

Hi Adrienne,

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
100%.

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.

Joris
J. Van Daele, multimedia
http://www.jorisart.com