Folksy Ltd

Jewellers-What do you think of argentium silver?

Cooksons are having an Argentium silver promotion and touting the usual things about it:

  1. It doesn’t tarnish as easily as sterling;
  2. It doesn’t firescale as easily;
  3. It’s whiter;
  4. It’s environmentally friendly as it doesn’t require as much post processing and it is made of recycled silver.
  5. It is less allergenic than sterling because it does not contain as much copper.

However,

  1. It is extortionately expensive;

And also, two things I found out via Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica

  1. Germanium comes from the burning of coal, the most polluting of all the fossil fuels-which mitigates against 4 above.

  2. Nobody knows what the level of toxicity is for Germanium. (Yep-there has been NO research). Which mitigates against 5 above.

Is anybody using it and what are their experiences? Is it the future?

Sam x

I did try it when it first came out, but wasn’t that keen, it didn’t quite have the same reticulating and fusing properties which I like in my work. And also I found you couldn’t oxidise it with liver of sulphur in the same way. (I like having the option)

When heating it was hard to judge temperature as the surface colour didn’t change the same way as sterling, meaning the inside could completely melt, before the surface indicated you were close to disaster.

I think if you were wanting smooth surfaces with a high polish it might be good, as fire scale is a bitch.

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Hmmm-very good point about the oxidation. I too like surface texture and detail and a bit of oxidation is exactly what is needed to bring it out. No reticulation gets a big thumbs down as well.

It’s funny how they don’t mention that working with it is so very different to sterling. Presumably they expect you to buy it and “find out for yourself.”

Totally agree about firescale tho’. One of the first pieces I made was a heavy weight bangle for my sister and it suffered a bit with firescale. I was rubbing it down for ages, but whenever I took it to the window to inspect it-there the firescale was again…

With firescale on sterling silver, I was given the tip to soak it overnight in a strong solution of salt in vinegar. Smells strong but gave results

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So I take it you would prefer not to use the Argentium Silver? I use salt and vinegar to polish my brass kitchen scales and it is incredibly effective. So much less toxic than Brasso!

Sam x

I haven’t actually bought any yet. I have a friend who used some but has gone back to sterling. I was viewing a youtube about using it today. I might try some for a bangle and see what happens.

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I’ve never tried argentium silver so can’t comment on its benefits (or lack there of) compared to sterling but I do wonder what the public perception to jewellery made from it would be. I’ve had lengthy conversations with people who are reluctant to try sterling silver because they had an issue with silver 20 odd years ago, are people who have had an allergy to metal and found something that works for them going to be put off as it is something different?

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Very true, and the fact it is more expensive might also come into this as far as consumers are concerned. Not everyone is aware of the distinction between fine and sterling silver, so adding a third into the mix, well, it might fly, or not!

Sam x

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I’ve been using Argentium silver for a couple of years and love it.

It takes a bit of getting used to at first because it does act quite differently to sterling. I actually find that it fuses really well (better than sterling) and I’ve never had a problem oxidising it either, although I do prefer the bright polished finish that you get with Argentium. I’ve never tried reticulating Argentium but from what I’ve read it can be achieved, again with a bit of practice.

Price wise it’s usually only a few pounds more expensive than sterling, so not really extortionate.

I have very sensitive skin and love the fact that I can wear a pair of Argentium silver earrings for days at a time without any irritation (unlike sterling). For this reason I now only use Argentium for my ear pins and wires and for many of my stud earrings.

A lot of my US customers specifically request Argentium for their commissions and I’ve had really good feedback on my standard stock items too, especially from those with sensitive skin. It seems to be more widely used in the US than it is here.

The only downsides that I’ve found is that it doesn’t enamel particularly well (I probably need more practice) and it’s not available (in this country anyway) in all the gauges that I would like. Other than that I think it’s a great material and well worth a try.

There’s some useful info here about working with Argentium https://media1.riogrande.com/Content/Working-with-Argentium-Silver-Tips-Procedures-IS.pdf

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How do you feel about the lack of testing for toxicity?

The germanium used in argentium silver is a trace element in terms of the quantity of it that is in the Earth’s crust and it is so reactive that it is never found in metalloid form in nature.

Much of the available germanium was trapped by the fern-like plants that grew in prehistory and were fossilized as coal. No modern organism has therefore evolved to deal with any quantity of this element.

I would have hoped that it would have been extensively tested for carcinogenic properties etc. before it was launched on the consumer market but it appears no testing has been done at all.

This might just be my anxiety talking, however…

Sam x

I don’t know for sure that there is a lack of testing.
The Argentium Guild may be able to provide information about that info@argentiumsilver.com

A quick internet search (I don’t have time to do an extensive search right now) shows that germanium has been used for medical purposes (dentistry and dietary supplements amongst other things…) and has a low toxicity. I assume that extensive research & testing was carried out before it was used in medicine.

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To be honest, I wish I’d never looked at the research. I’m sure argentium is probably ok. It is a bit disturbing to discover that people are eating germanium in the US and Japan as some kind of snake oil supplement.

Sam x