Argentium Fusing: How to Make Argentium Sterling Silver Jewelry with Cynthia Eid
Who better to teach you how to make Argentium sterling silver jewelry than jewelry expert Cynthia Eid, who has been working with it for two decades? Here’s the story of how she mastered working with this miracle metal and how you can, too.
How to Make Argentium Sterling Silver Jewelry: It’s Mithril to Me!
By Cynthia Eid
In 1996, I heard a rumor that someone in England had invented a sterling silver that is firescale-free. At the time, I was making large sterling silver vessels that each needed to be annealed at least a dozen times. I had become very good at preventing firescale, but found it to be a tedious chore for these big pieces. By 1999, I finally had a source for this miracle silver. From 1999 to 2006, I purchased the sterling from a man who imported it from Finland.
Being an early adopter, and having minimal information, there was a learning curve for me. With 30 years’ experience, I recognized that I was over-heating the silver when I annealed. I had to figure out how to avoid that! After much experimentation–applying fluxes and markers and annealing carefully in the dark, then turning on the lights–I found that the marks of a black Sharpie marker reliably burn off at annealing temperature. This has become the accepted protocol for annealing Argentium sterling silver: Scribble over the surface with a Sharpie and heat; when the ink “fades to a ghost”, the Argentium silver is annealed.
During those years, I simply substituted Argentium sterling for traditional sterling, forging, fold-forming, raising, microfolding, and soldering with it while reveling in the release from the cares of firescale. I was delighted to realize that this sterling is terrific for forming–very ductile and malleable. These properties were demonstrated for me in a startling and dramatic way while I was using my hydraulic press to form the body of a teapot. After using the amount of pressure that I would have needed for traditional sterling, I was astonished to see that the sterling had stretched and puffed far beyond my expectations; it was as if the silver was a Jiffy Pop! (Unfortunately, this did not fit my vision for the teapot and I had to un-form it!)
Around 2003, at a meeting of the Society of American Silversmiths in Rhode Island, I met Peter Johns, the inventor of Argentium sterling silver. He was happily surprised to learn that I was working with Argentium sterling, even though it was not yet available in the U.S. We became friends and email correspondents. I had the fun of testing the alloy and solders as they were improved and brought to the U.S. marketplace.
In 2006, I was thrilled to be able to purchase Argentium sterling silver in the U.S. By this time, the alloy had failed in the UK market, so I was determined to do all that I could to help Argentium silver be a success in the U.S. I wanted to help people avoid the problems that I had already worked through to make Argentium sterling silver jewelry. I wrote the first U.S. guides to using Argentium silver, which were published by industry leaders like Rio Grande and the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG).
As time went on, I noticed that this alloy rarely had tarnish! What a pleasure to be released from re-cleaning and polishing my jewelry! I found that I never used the traditional sterling stock that I still had, so I sold it all.
Fusing Argentium Sterling Silver
In the page of info from Argentium Silver Ltd in the UK, it was mentioned that the alloy could be welded. I began to experiment with fusing, since I do not own any welding equipment. A world of new possibilities opened up before me. What fun to be able to join pieces together and not worry about a joint re-flowing during the next joining operation! Wow! No firescale and now no blobs of solder to clean up!
Get a window into my world with the new videos that I’ve recorded for Interweave about making Argentium sterling silver jewelry. The third video, just released, is about fusing wires to make a pair of light, airy earrings. –Cynthia
Get Cynthia’s latest DVD on how to make Argentium sterling silver jewelry, How to Make Jewelry with Argentium Sterling Silver: Intermediate Fusing, or instantly download the video to learn to make eye-catching Argentium silver wire earrings. And if you’re new to Argentium, you’ll also want to get her video introduction to Argentium sterling silver to get the basic foundation on this user-friendly metal.