Is there anyone else out there that is trying to get to grips with Argentium silver and not exactly meeting with success?? I have tried to find information on other people’s experiences with it but have come up with very little success so far…but I will keep looking!!
I am a really recent convert to making jewellery with silver so I don’t have a lot of experience of working with the metal to really know what to expect when faced with Argentium! But I have always been one to have a go and experiment! I love working with pure ‘fine’ silver…it is just so clean and beautiful to work with….but it is not a very strong metal. So although I make chunky, decorative chains from fine silver and use pmc with it as well, I am very aware of its limitations. That is why I was very excited when Argentium was finally available in the UK!
I have made earwires and catches with it since July with great success but I thought it was time to get more serious with it…and I especially wanted to see how compatible it is with pmc….so I have been having a play with it this week… Can I just say that I am pretty new with pmc as well…and am reluctant to commit large pieces of it to experimentation!!
I have had a go at annealing the Argentium with a torch – using the Sharpie trick – and just watching for a very dull red colour change in a darkened studio but found it less than successful…so this time – after initially trying to wind it round mandrels straight from the supplier and creating a very springy spring! – I tried annealing it in the kiln…with the door ajar to allow lots of oxygen to circulate…
After allowing it to cool a bit and quenching it – it still looked rather springy…
Trying to get it tight round a mandrel was impossible – although I taped it into place! See the gap that sprung open as I cut through the rings!!!
Anyway – I persevered… I have already discovered that Argentium fuses really well…doesn’t even need a flux…and amazingly it goes silver again as it reaches fusing temperature! Can you spot the difference between the fused and non fused rings here!!!
And here is the difference between the colour of the fused rings (right) and the smaller rings that I cleaned up in pickle…
So now we have my little pmc additions. I have previously tried attaching stars and holly leaves to elongated Argentium jumprings using pmc slip with some success and discovered that if the attached area is too great it causes the Argentium to distort alarmingly! So I have been very careful of the way I have attached them this time. The rings were real experiments where I literally only attached the rings to the back with 3 or 4 little spots of pmc slip…just to see how strong a bond this would make!
Well – you can see by the results that the rings have distorted pretty dramatically here so obviously the Argentium has adhered pretty well to the pmc even with a few dabs of slip!! I am still pretty shocked by the extent of the blackening of the Argentium though – considering how bright it was after fusing it! It is so thick it is actually pinging off the surface in little flakes!!
So I plopped them all into pickle after they had all cooled down a bit! and they came out looking lovely!
But as I gathered them all together I felt a horrible crunching noise in my hand and—– disaster!! The ring from the ivy leaf – which had distorted so much in firing had snapped! And as I manipulated it more I discovered that not only had it snapped but that I could break the rest of the Argentium off of the pmc leaf just using my fingers – and worse still…it snapped just like a piece of dry spaghetti!!
But I plodded on with my plans and popped a bit on enamel onto the pieces that were left…only to get distracted at the vital moment and ended up leaving them in the kiln for much too long…so that wasn’t much of a success either!! A bit of a bad day all in all!! (And it does get worse!!) But look again!! …why has the Argentium not blackened this time? I fire my pmc and my enamel at the same temperature 820 degrees C – so why did it go black when fired with pmc but not when enamel firing and accidently leaving it in a hot kiln for the same sort of time??
Having messed these up I left them to cool in the kiln and had an evening with my grandchildren before looking at the pieces this morning….and yes…I couldn’t resist a fiddle!! I could tell that the wire was just not feeling right…no where near as fragile as the ivy leaf ring was – but obviously not good…and there we go…. A pile of so much scrap!!
The broken wire I have discovered balls up beautifully – so perhaps that is not entirely wasted…but I can’t think how to salvage the pmc!!
I don’t know what I have learned from all this yet…and would welcome any comments!! Perhaps Argentium isn’t compatible with pmc…not with a physical bond anyway. I am thinking that the shrinking process with the pmc3 is disturbing the Argentium when it is at its weakest and most brittle state and causing it to shatter all through. Perhaps it can only fire with pmc at its lowest firing temperature. Perhaps it is only safe to use it with a mechanical attachment to pmc pieces….
Perhaps I will just go back to fine silver!!
As I have said above…I would really welcome any comments…and would love to have some information on how you have found Argentium to perform in the workshop…and with pmc if you have tried it!!