Fine Silver, 22k Yellow Gold & 18k Green Gold Components
As with most of my one-of-a-kind jewelry, I really love fusing metal clay components into place on my Argentium sterling silver fabricated jewelry. I’ve done this now for more than two years with fine silver clay, and recently I’ve begun to experiment with other metal clays as well.
fused Argentium ring with granulation
Normally, we think of fine silver and high karat gold, metals that don’t react with oxygen when heated, as being metals where fusing is used. Fusing means the metal joins without the use of solder. Traditional sterling won’t fuse because oxygen causes the heated metal to develop black copper oxide, called fire scale, which prevents the metal from joining without the use of an intermediate metal mix called solder. The small percentage of germanium in the Argentium alloy rises preferentially to the surface, where it confers a lot of great properties like preventing fire scale so the metal can fuse. In this case, a phase of metal with higher copper and germanium actually becomes molten and flows while the rest of the material stays solid. It’s a bit like having solder distributed throughout the metal. Argentium is much easier to fuse than fine silver. I typically fabricate almost all of my jewelry via fusing, and only occasionally resort to fusing a minor bit here and there.
For great information on fusing Argentium to itself, check out the resources online at the Argentium Guild.
Fusing Fine Silver Clay to Argentium
wren panel from Five Moons bracelet
In general, fusing metal clay (fine silver) onto Argentium is straightforward. The fine silver needs to be treated a bit more gently, as it will tend to heat faster than Argentium and therefore can overheat and potentially melt before the Argentium flows. Anywhere that the fine silver touches the sterling, Argentium will flow and bond when the fusing temperature is reached.
For more details on fusing fine silver to Argentium, there are a number of resources available:
- “Fusing Silver Clay to Argentium Silver,” an article that I wrote with Ronda Coryell that was published last year in Metal Clay Artist Magazine.
- Two upcoming articles by Ronda and I, due out in the November 2014 issue of Art Jewelry Magazine.
- My upcoming online class with Alison Lee on CraftCast, scheduled again for November, which you’ll be hearing more about later.
Fusing 22k Yellow Gold Clay to Argentium
heron panel from California Moons bracelet
Ronda Coryell has taught fusing 18k or higher gold onto Argentium for years now, so it’s no surprise that 22k gold clay works similarly. Again, the key is to heat slowly, as gold heats quickly and can actually sink right through the Argentium rather than fusing up on the surface. Trust my experience — that’s a sad waste of beautiful gold!
Fusing 18k Green Gold Clay to Argentium
Gold Leaf Basket earrings – 18k green gold clay leaves fused to Argentium bases
I recently tried some of Michelle Felice Glaeser’s 18k green gold. I thought using different colors of gold in my work might be very exciting — all those tiny leaves could actually be green! This worked exactly as well as the 22k yellow gold, I’m happy to say.
So my experiments continue. On my bench this week: 14k rose gold clay. Results coming soon.