Thursday, April 30, 2009

Argentium Sterling

I'd really like to see more jewelers using Argentium Sterling Silver (A.925) and stop being so afraid, reluctant & critical. Not sure what A.925 is? Well, here it is per Wikipedia:

Argentium Sterling Silver is a modern sterling silver alloy which modifies the traditional alloy (92.5% silver + 7.5% copper) by replacing some of the copper with the metalloid germanium. As it retains the same 92.5% silver content, it is still sterling silver, just as the traditional alloy.

Argentium Silver is the result of research by Peter Johns at the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University. The project began in 1990 with research on the effects of germanium additions to silver alloys. Germanium was discovered to impart the following properties to sterling silver:

  • Firescale elimination
  • High tarnish resistance
  • Precipitation hardening and simple heat-hardening properties
  • Increased ductility
  • Increased thermal and electrical resistance (making alloys suitable for welding and laser forming)
  • Environmental advantages (associated with not having to remove or plate over firescale)

When I began working as a bench assistant to Judie Raiford in June of 2006 she had been using A.925 for well over a year. To my advantage, my first experience with this new medium was with her metal and on her dime. Immediately, the two very important things I learned about working A.925 were, 1) don't pinch/push/press on the metal while you are heating it and 2) wait just a few extra seconds before you pickup/quinch/pickle your piece because it will crack. There are a few other noticible nuances between the two metals, traditional .925 and A.925. For one, A.925 becomes rather flexible when it's red hot, therefore you can't heat it too long because it will lose some of it's structure. However, it's not usually necesary to push down on the metal when you are trying to get a good solder flow because it will relax on it's own. This can take some time to learn / master.

The most common reason I hear from other jewelers for not trying A.925 is because "you have to switch out half of your studio tools in order to change over to using A.925." NOT REALLY! Yes, there will be some contamination. So, change out your polishing buffs, your pickle and maybe a new file or two. But once you begin using A.925 you won't see any fire scale...and this property alone is so worth the switch. "No fire scale" has allowed me to make jewelry designs that would have been impossible with traditional .925. since the fire scale would have been impossible to get to for clean up.

Stay tuned metal fans, for more on the subject of Argentium Sterling Silver. Later....!!!

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