Answer the the following question: Is Argentium
a) the name of a Roman emperor
b) a lost city like Atlantis
c) a Superhero
If you answered c, you are right! Argentium is superhero sterling silver, capable of creating beautiful jewelry without firescale or tarnishing. How does it do this, you ask?
Traditional sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. When it is heated, oxygen molecules can pass through and cause the copper to oxidize. When this occurs below the surface, it is called firescale . When the same chemical reaction occurs on the surface without the heat, it’s called tarnish. Either way, it’s a pain in the (fill in whatever body part you want!). Argentium (a trade marked and guarenteed sterling silver) is 93.5% silver, about 5.5% copper, and about 1% germanium. When Argentium is heated, germanium oxide forms as a transparent, protective layer on the silver, making it tarnish-resistant. Additionally, this layer of germanium oxide prevents firescale by oxidizing preferentially to the copper. That just means that it oxidizes first! Germanium oxide is also self-regenerating, which means that the piece is permanently protected from firescale. How cool is that!
Argentium was developed by Peter Johns at the Art and Design Research Institute at Middlesex University in London, England in the 1990’s with the intention of making a silver alloy with increased resistance to tarnishing and firescale. In addition, it is more durable and has greater ductility. It can also be heat-hardened and has a brighter shine than regular sterling silver. Finally, Argentium is made with ethically sourced silver and is hypoallergenic. All this, and it doesn’t cost a whole lot more than traditional sterling silver!
What can you do with it? Pretty much anything you do with traditional sterling silver. Argentium Sterling is available in sheet, wire, bezel and gallery wire, tubing, solder and casting grain, so any projects you make with sterling silver can easily be made with Argentium. Argentium really likes itself and FUSES well for Granulation pieces or jump rings . All the jewellery pieces featured on this page were made using Argentium Sterling and FUSED instead of soldered.
Because of the brightness, Argentium makes beautiful, clean-lined modern jewelry. Because of the germanium oxide, liver of sulfur and silver black do not create a patina on Argentium the way they do on traditional sterling silver.
Since it is so bright and white, try boldly coloured stones with it, such as garnet, amethyst and lapis which will pop against the clean shine of the Argentium. Or just focus on texture and design, such as the bracelet and pendant shown here.
However you use it, Argentium Sterling will become your Superhero, Up, Up and Away!