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Working with Argentium Sterling Silver


#1

I have several questions:

  1. Does argentium sterling have any copper at all? If the answer
    is no, or very little, is it correct to assume that it does not need
    to be pickled after heating?

  2. If no copper, then can it be “depletion guilded??”

  3. If one is using non-argentuim solders with argentium sterling,
    won’t these contaminate the surface and accelerate tarnishing just as
    using a buff that has had contact with regular sterling would?

  4. If mixing buffs and soldering surfaces can contaminate argentium
    sterling, what about files, burrs, etc? How clean should the bench
    be?

Thanks lots -
Debby


#2

Hi, I’ve been getting some questions off-line about working with
Argentium. I have received permission to post the questions and
answers, since they may be helpful to others.

 I have been reading your posts on Orchid re. Argentium Silver and
I just recently purchased some sheet and round wire from Stuller. I
had asked to speak to someone there who had actually used it but
no one had so I thought you wouldn't mind if I asked you a few
technical questions. 

don’t be too nervous. It’s not so different, really. Do read the info
at both silversmithing.com and argentiumsilver.com.
http://www.argentiumsilver.com/intro.htm Then, do a small, quick
sample to get started.

 First, because there is not argentium solder yet available how do
your solder seams look as the piece 'ages'? 

They are working on argentium solders,but,in the meantime, we are
stuck with the old regulars. Tney age the same as they always did.
I always try, in any metal to put seams at corners, so that if they
tarnish, they look natural—sort of like a shadow. I don’t find my
seams to be looking especially ugly or annoying.

  I do a lot of hollow forms and I was hoping to be able to use
the new metal for that purpose but I don't have the ability to
harden it first (no oven that reaches that high a temp). 

The sagging problem only happens if you are using flat sheet.
Formed sheet is not a problem, since it has structural strength. I
don’t do anything special—I just mentioned that for the benefit
of those who do use a lot of flat, straight sheet.

Here are the instructions for heat hardening: Argentium Sterling
is precipitation hardenable. A doubling in final hardness can be
achieved by heating at temperatures obtainable in a domestic oven.
The hard alloy can be softened by conventional annealing and then
hardened again if required. The alloy’s hardness can also be doubled
after the piece you’re working on has been work hardened: 450 F (232
C) for @2 hours, 570 F (299 C) for @30 minutes. The alloy will not
lose its hardness if left in the oven beyond the above times.

 I have gotten to the point, just by knowing the metal,  where my
metal working techniques are pretty routine - just generally
speaking how did your techniques or approach to this metal change
by its different working characteristics. 

The main changes I’ve noticed are: the joy of not having to spend
time preparing to solder by cleaning the metal so that the Prip’s
flux would adhere to prevent firescale

  • the ability to form work more quickly and easily due to the
    increased ductility and malleability

  • the pleasure that when a piece is done, it is finished. I don’t
    have that annoyance of noticing a spot of firescale that I missed,
    and having to go back and re-finish that area.

  • I think carefully before I use hard silver solder. If I choose to
    use it, I am VERY careful with the heat

  • when soldering, I use the heat more like I would if soldering
    gold, since the Argentium does not conduct the heat as well as
    sterling. That is, after giving a general waving of the torch over
    the whole piece to bring it near soldering temperature, I focus the
    heat on the seam area.

  • Be aware that the annealing temperature is lower. It seems easy
    to overheat. If I am unable to anneal in a dark room, I use paste
    flux as a temperature indicator; that is, I put a few dabs on all
    over, and watch for the flux to turn clear and runny.

  • It is important to wait until the metal stops glowing red before
    quenching, to avoid shocking the metal. If you wait even longer
    before quenching, the metal will be slightly less soft, but I prefer
    to err on that side, myself.

all best,
CindyCynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com