Perhaps you can order your wire in a hard state instead of soft. The
soft wire is annealed after having been drawn. I got hard sterling
harden wire for earwires is to draw it down a bit yourself. Not at
all difficult, but it does require a drawplate and a vise, and maybe
drawtongs. What I would suggest for you at this time, Sojourner, is
to make the earwires out of sterling, and save the Argentium sterling
for the earrings themselves. Nothing wrong with that; it's all
sterling, after all.
Hitting wire with a mallet will be of little use unless the shape is
deformed by the blows. It is the squishing and moving about of the
molecules that makes the difference. Just jarring it with the mallet
will do little for it, IMHO.
You can bend the small loop in the earwires before tumbling, and
string them on something for ease of retrieval. Just don't bend the
big curve that holds it in the ear yet.
I once saw a softball-sized wad of earrings with earwires on them
come out of someone's tumbler. 'Nuff said.
M'lou Brubaker, Jeweler