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Unsoldering argentium


#1

Very little mention has been made on this forum about un-soldering.
While either fusing or soldering will join 2 or more parts, it is
common in jewelry making to need to un-solder various components.
Improper alignment, solder which flows too far between 2 wires or
parts, or even a change in design may mean parts have to be heated
with a torch and either moved or removed.

While Argentium sterling does have many virtues, primarily in the
fusing realm, trying to un-fuse or un-solder parts can be
catastrophic with Argentium. Separating two wires that have been
soldered often means a broken wire. Moving parts into final alignment
before solder flows can again lead to a fractured part. It is this
"hot short" quality of Argentium sterling which causes many
difficulties.

While the germanium is the “magic” ingredient which gives Argentium
sterling its fusing and fire-scale free properties, I am told by
professional metallurgists that too much germanium in the sterling
causes the fragility at heat, or “hot short” problems. Less
percentage of germanium, the metallurgists say, will still keep the
fire scale to a minimum, still allow for good fusing characteristics,
and no problems with metal brittleness when hot.

Why not look for a high-tech sterling which contains germanium, but
in a smaller percentage, which will avoid the “hot short” problems of
Argentium??

Jay Whaley
www.whaleystudiois.com


#2

Hello Jay,

I see the problem you mentioned about unsoldering Argentium parts
for whatever reason… Actually this past week I was teaching a
class at Jewelry Studies Intl. on fabricating ring shanks and
soldering heavy bezels on to these ring shanks. Of course, some
students had problems with alignment so I had to show them how to
unsolder, and in other cases how to reposition the parts by heating
and moving them without taking them apart.

What I’m trying to say is yes, it may seem difficult to do so with
Argentium but it’s possible with torch control, which comes with
practice working with the metal.

Best regards,
Vasken Tanielian


#3

‘Unsoldering Argentium’ I find this topic facinating and have not
chimed in on the debate of traditional sterling silver vs argentium
sterling silver and the other more high tech sterlings I have not
experimented with but will be soon. I worked one year almost entirely
with argentium. I love making chain and very detailed pieces that are
similar to granulation so I thought I argentium would be a good fit
for me. Argentium is ok in many applications but I thought I could
replace traditional sterling silver with argentium completely and I
cannot. In fact I went in the other direction…I stopped using it. I
started using fine silver instead.

My problem is the fragility of the material at critical points. I
just gotta touch it while it’s at a fusing temp…bad news. I have
completely removed argentium bezels or a wire because of changing a
design mid-stream by detaching broken fragments piece by
piece…jeez…messy. I can’t wait to repair something that’s
argentium and not know it and break it - hasn’t happened yet but I am
sure it will. Even now I used up all of my argentium jump rings and
got rid of them because I would just rather have it be predictable
and not fall apart like a potato chip under heat and some pressure. I
had one huge argentium pendant I spent hours on and heated it several
times over and over to add little details to each quadrant of the
piece. The piece was 3.5 inches x 4 inches. I was very careful with
my set up everytime and steadfast to not touch anything… In the
last soldering process the whole piece fractured right in the middle.
It was kinda cool to see - never seen anything like it - a big crack,
spontaneously while being heated. I was amazed and then I was gonna
cry because I had a huge problem - a big crack right down the center
of my piece! Well, I did salvage it by adding an entirely new design
to the back with granulation like pieces to conceal the fracture. The
back was a decorated and designed as the front and I kept the piece
for myself. Really weird to see though! Argentium has purpose but for
me I don’t prefer it to traditional sterling silver. My pieces are
too complicated maybe? I will have to experiment with sterlium…I
think that is what it’s called??? Have not used it yet. :wink:

joy kruse


#4

Hi Jay,

I agree that un-soldering a joint in Argentium Silver can be
problematic, but I have not found it impossible. I hold one part in
tweezers (away from the joint, so that the pressure of the tweezers
does not cause a problem), and heat the joint. When the solder
flows, I let the now un-attached piece fall a short distance to a
soldering board.

In any case, no alloy is perfect. There are pros and cons to each
alloy, and each person needs to find the match for their work and
habits. Though your favorite alloy is not my favorite, I respect your
differing opinion about sterling alloys.

However, I think that your suggestion of looking at other alloys may
not be the answer for many people. It depends on the kind of work
they do. For you, AS does not suit your needs. However, for people
who want to be able to fuse, a lower germanium content is unlikely to
work well. I do know that Peter Johns, the inventor, experimented A
LOT, and did not arrive at the percentage that is in Argentium Silver
randomly. It really is the optimum amount for most people who like
the properties of AS. It is not for everyone—we are each different,
and have different needs. It is not realistic to expect that one
silver alloy will be the perfect one for 100% of jewelers and
silversmiths.

Respectfully disagreeing,
Cynthia
http://www.cynthiaeid.com