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Working with Argentium

Hi All,

I’ve been reading all the posts about Argentium tarnishing, needing
to be hardened in the oven to “activate” the tarnish resistance,
etc.

But with all the info I’m feeling a little confused and can’t figure
out this little problem. I bought some 24 ga Argentium Silver wire
to make a wire-wrapped necklace using fresh water pearls. I was
eager to use the Argentium Silver because of its tarnish resistance,
figuring that since pearls are so delicate, and this type of
necklace is a pain to polish and clean anyway, that I wouldn’t have
to worry about how to polish and clean it much after it is
constructed. I did not anneal the wire first because it feels very
soft to me, so after running it through a polishing cloth first,
I’ve been twisting it to work harden. The wire does stiffen up
pretty well, but I’m still a little worried that it might still be
too soft to be sturdy enough to sell to people. Now I’m also
wondering if it will tarnish because I did not anneal the wire
first. So I guess I’m wondering - should I be annealing the wire
first, even though it is already quite soft so as to ensure the
tarnish resistance and then heat harden it and then construct the
necklace? Will the wire then be too hard to do nice wire-wrapping?

Thanks for your guidance!
Nan

    The wire does stiffen up pretty well, but I'm still a little
worried that it might still be too soft to be sturdy enough to sell
to people.  Now I'm also wondering if it will tarnish because I did
not anneal the wire first. So I guess I'm wondering - should I be
annealing the wire first, even though it is already quite soft so
as to ensure the tarnish resistance and then heat harden it and
then construct the necklace?  Will the wire then be too hard to do
nice wire-wrapping? 

Nan, I’ve been using 22g Argentium round wire with pearls and have
found that it work-hardens sufficiently while working with it for my
purposes, at least. I have used it to string pearls to make braids
on heavier guage wire and as earring dangles. I did not anneal or
heat harden which I now regret due to the reports of tarnishing
out-of-the-bag, and my experience with the Argentium bracelet I’ve
been wearing for a bit over a week now.

However, it would appear that my wire is actually half hard rather
than dead soft, so if you do choose to anneal, you might need to
work it back up to half hard. You can do this by twisting the wire
(round wire will just twist and twist without any visible change,
square wire will get a spiral twist in it). Or you might try to
precipitation harden it, though I couldn’t begin to guess how long
you would want to heat it to get it to only half-hard, since there is
the potential to precipitation harden to twice the hardness of
standard sterling.

Which brings up another question - how hard is half-hard for
Argentium compared to half-hard for Sterling, if the maximum hardness
of the Argentium is actually twice that of Sterling?

Whew, makes your head spin! Or at least mine.

Sojourner

I've been reading all the posts about Argentium tarnishing, needing
to be hardened in the oven to "activate" the tarnish resistance,
etc. 

Hello Nan, I hope you don’t mind if I jump in here. Just a point of
clarification. You don’t ever “need” to precip harden the metal.
There are a few ways to “activate” the tarnish resistance and that
just happens to be one of them. Annealing is another, possibly more
thorough, way to do the “activation”.

... So I guess I'm wondering - should I be annealing the wire
first, even though it is already quite soft .... 

The problem is that you have no idea whether the metal was heat
treated (read “well heated in the presence of oxygen”) before you got
it. So you want to do so in order to ensure that the tarnish
resistance has been “activated”. In other words, yes, if I were you
I certainly would anneal it.

... Will the wire then be too hard to do nice wire-wrapping? 

If you precip harden it it will almost certainly be harder than you
want it to be for wire wrapping, etc. I don’t think this is what you
want to be doing.

In general I’d say that precip hardening should be done if you
actually want to harden the metal, which it does nicely.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

Hi everyone,

I would like to point out that the original reason that Argentium
Sterling Silver was developed was to eliminate firescale. Wow! That’s
amazing!

AND, as if that were not enough, it ALSO is highly tarnish-resistant!
Hurrah!

AND, (as the commercials would say, but wait-- there’s more!) It’s
also highly malleable and ductile, it also can be fused, and it also
can be heat hardened in an oven!

With all these amazing qualities, why are we surprised that it also
works a bit differently than other metals that we know about?
Naturally, since it has different benefits from other metals, it has
different working qualities as well.

Like everything new, there is a bit of a learning curve to learning
how best to work with it. This is nothing new----for instance, I
can recall many posts and questions from people asking about how to
learn to solder and work with gold, which has different working
properties from regular sterling silver. There is a publication
devoted to discussing how best to work with PMC.

I would like to take a moment to thank Peter Johns for inventing
Argentium Sterling Silver, and sharing it with the world. I
appreciate the perseverance that it has taken for him to bring it to
the market, and make it available to us. I appreciate Stuller for
taking a chance on something new, and being the first company in the
United States to stock Argentium Sterling Silver and offer it for
sale. I appreciate Rio Grande, G & S Metals, Hoover and Strong, and
Magic Novelty for also making the investments necessary to stock
Argentium Sterling Silver.

In my studio, I have a big yellow caution sign that says: “No
Whining Allowed”. I think that the world is a better place when we
focus on positives.

Best wishes to all,
Cindy
www.cynthiaeid.com

So I guess I'm wondering - should I be annealing the wire first,
even though it is already quite soft so as to ensure the tarnish
resistance and then heat harden it and then construct the necklace?
 Will the wire then be too hard to do nice wire-wrapping? 

Hi Nan,

There are several ways for you to ensure tarnish resistance, but I
think that the easiest thing to do is to heat the wire for 10 to 20
minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be enough heat to be
sure that there is plenty of germanium oxide.

OR, if the design and technique allow, and you would like to harden
the metal: you could heat harden in the oven (1 hour at 580 degrees
F., or, if your oven is like mine, and does not go that high: 2 hours
at 550 F. ) after wrapping, but before adding the pearls.

(If there is any discoloration after heating, simply pickle. If the
silver needs brightening, use a Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Cloth or
liquid, or brass brush with soapy water, or tumble in steel shot with
burnishing compound.) Using Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Cloth or Long
Shine liquid also adds to the tarnish resistance.

By the way, it’s worthwhile learning to work with this new material
that has the advantages of no firescale and added tarnish resistance,
don’t you think?!

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com

    AND, (as the commercials would say, but wait-- there's more!)
It's also highly malleable and ductile, it also can be fused, and 
it also can be heat hardened in an oven!

This sounds particularly promising for those of us who do not have
kilns. However, there was some discussion about unsatisfactory
results if Argentium Silver is hardened in an oven in which food has
been prepared. Should the kitchen oven be used for annealing only
after a self-clean cycle or (shudder) an old-fashioned cleaning?

Another inquiring mind.

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com

Cindy,

Have you used the Argentium in the hydraulic press?

Jennifer Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan, ceremonial silver

... Should the kitchen oven be used for annealing only after a
self-clean cycle or (shudder) an old-fashioned cleaning? 

Hello Pam,

I’m with you on the “shudder”: as my bumper sticker would read if I
had a bumper, “I’d rather be precipitation hardening”.

But to your question. Someone, I’m pretty sure it was Cindy, recently
mentioned a great idea: pop the stuff in a Pyrex oven dish with a
close fitting lid and then stick that in the oven. Smashing idea, so
to speak, and a nice dodge of one’s belated oven chores. A slight
bump up in the baking times would seem to be in order to allow the
dish and contents to come up to working temperatures.

A brief Google around seemed to indicate that the safe upper limit
for Pyrex ovenware is around 450C (842F) so I don’t think we need
to worry about that.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

    This sounds particularly promising for those of us who do not
have kilns. However, there was some discussion about unsatisfactory
results if Argentium Silver is hardened in an oven in which food
has been prepared. Should the kitchen oven be used for annealing
only after a self-clean cycle or (shudder) an old-fashioned
cleaning? 

Hi Pam,

I do not think that an immaculately clean oven is necessary. Mine
isn’t! I can’t remember the last time I cleaned it. If the oven is
smoking, then that is probably too dirty. Remember: if the silver
discolors from heat-treating, just pickle it.

It is worth thinking about what you put the silver ON in the oven. I
recommend a soldering pad, or a pyrex dish. Avoid aluminum or teflon,
etc.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com

pop the stuff in a Pyrex oven dish with a close fitting lid and
then stick that in the oven. 

Actually, Trevor, I don’t have a pyrex dish with a lid. I have been
using a pyrex pie pan. I think it would be ok to use a dish with a
lid, though. I think I would allow plenty of time, in that case,
though, for the dish to heat up; it may take longer for the metal
inside to get hot.

Cindy
www.cynthiaeid.com

Actually, Trevor, I don't have a pyrex dish with a lid. I have been
using a pyrex pie pan. 

Hello Cynthia,

I stand corrected. The pyrex dishes I have all have fairly snug lids
so I guess I just extrapolated a little on that one.

Just for the heck of it I think I’ll try a little test to see how
much longer it takes a closed dish to get up to precip hardening
temperatures as compared to an open dish. As you’ve said the baking
times we’ve been suggesting would need to be adjusted accordingly.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com