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Fused Argentium earrings

Use a handheld butane torch to fuse a pair of earrings
Fused Argentium earrings
These simple fused dangles are 1 1 ⁄2 in. (38 mm) long. Once you’ve learned how to fuse the balls, create your own design.

To a beginner metalsmith, being able to do granulation may seem like a distant goal, but making these earrings will bring that goal within reach. In this project, you’ll learn the principles used in granulation, but you’ll be working on a slightly larger scale. If you’ve been waiting to try your hand at Argentium sterling, here’s your chance.

SUPPLIES

  • Argentium Sterling Silver wire: 
    • 16-gauge (1.3 mm), round, half-hard, 6 in. (15.2 cm)
    • 14-gauge (1.6 mm), round, half-hard, 3 in. (76 mm) 
  • Argentium Sterling Silver premade ear wires with loop and bead
  • Scouring pad: Scotch-Brite
  • Heavy-duty wire cutters
  • Soldering station: handheld butane torch, Argentium easy wire solder, soldering pad, charcoal block, pot with pickle, flux, steel tweezers, copper tongs 
  • Jeweler’s saw, 2/0 blades
  • Bench pin
  • Ball-peen hammer
  • Anvil
  • Hand files
  • Sandpapers: various grits 
  • Center punch
  • Flex shaft, 1 mm drill bit
  • Brass brush (optional)
  • Pyrex dish

INSTRUCTIONS

Fused Argentium earrings 1
Photo 1
Fused Argentium earrings 2
Photo 2

Make the balls. Use a scouring pad to clean 16-gauge (1.3 mm) Argentium sterling wire. Use heavy-duty wire cutters to cut six 1-in. (25.5 mm) pieces of wire. Place each piece on a clean charcoal block. Paint flux onto each piece, and then heat the wires with a handheld butane torch [PHOTO 1] until they become liquid and ball up [PHOTO 2]. 

Don’t be tempted to pick up the balls with tweezers before they have completely cooled. Argentium sterling can distort easily if it is manipulated while it’s still close to its melting temperature, so leave the balls in place on the charcoal block and allow them to air-cool.

Fused Argentium earrings 3
Photo 3
Fused Argentium earrings 4
Photo 4

Fuse the balls. Use a pencil to mark the sides of a new soldering pad to indicate that it’s for use with Argentium sterling only. Arrange three balls on the soldering pad in a triangle so that all three are touching [PHOTO 3]. 

Flux the joins and heat the balls, using the butane torch. Concentrate the flame on the joins until the balls turn a whitish color and you see a shiny liquid look at the joins [PHOTO 4]. Let the triangle of fused balls air-cool for a few minutes, and then pickle and rinse them. Repeat to make a second triangle from the remaining three balls.

 
Fused Argentium earrings 5
Photo 5
Fused Argentium earrings 6
Photo 6
Fused Argentium earrings 7
Photo 7

Make the stems. Cut two 1 1⁄4-in. (32 mm) pieces of 14-gauge (1.6 mm) Argentium sterling wire. Use a jeweler’s saw with 2/0 saw blades to cut the wire on a bench pin, or use the heavy-duty wire cutters. Use the flat face of a ball-peen hammer to flatten both ends of each wire on an anvil [PHOTO 5]. File the flattened wire ends into a rounded shape to complete the earring stems [PHOTO 6]. Use a scouring pad to clean each stem before soldering [PHOTO 7].

Fused Argentium earrings 8
Photo 8
Fused Argentium earrings 9
Photo 9

Solder each assembly. Place a stem on the soldering pad designated for Argentium sterling. Flux one end of the stem and one triangle of fused balls [PHOTO 8]. 

Place a pallion of Argentium easy solder on top of one end of the stem [PHOTO 9]. Heat slowly until the flux bubbles and the pallion becomes stuck to the end of the stem.

Fused Argentium earrings 10
Photo 10
Fused Argentium earrings 11
Photo 11

Place the triangle of balls on top of the solder [PHOTO 10], and then concentrate the hottest part of the flame on the stem near the balls. The triangle of balls will drop down when the solder flows. Quickly remove the heat, let the assembly air-cool for 1–2 minutes, and then quench, pickle, and rinse the piece. Repeat for the second assembly.

Assemble an earring. File and sand the join lightly to remove any rough spots or sharp edges [PHOTO 11]. 

Use a center punch to make a small dimple in the center of the remaining flattened end of the stem. Drill a hole at the dimple with a 1 mm drill bit in a flex shaft. Attach a premade Argentium sterling ear wire to complete the earring. Repeat to assemble the second earring. Use a scouring pad or a brass brush and soapy water to give the earrings a brushed look. 

Bring up the germanium. Heat your finished earrings to bring the germanium, a tarnish-resisting element, to the surface of the Argentium sterling. Preheat a clean oven to 250ºF (121ºC), place the earrings in a clean Pyrex dish, and then heat the earrings in the oven for 10–20 minutes. This final step will ensure that your Argentium sterling earrings remain tarnish-free. Let the earrings cool to room temperature before you handle them.

Tip!
  • Use a clean solderite board for balling up the Argentium sterling wire. It makes a cleaner and rounder ball. 
  • To prevent Argentium sterling from being contaminated by traditional sterling silver, use a new soldering pad for fusing and soldering. Mark the soldering pad on the sides with a pencil to indicate that it is for Argentium sterling only.
  • Don’t bother to pickle or clean Argentium sterling balls. Unlike traditional sterling silver, which turns black when it’s heated, Argentium sterling is usually very clean after heating and can be fused without being pickled or cleaned.
  • Heat only in the area where you want the solder to flow. Unlike soldering with traditional sterling silver, you don’t have to bring an entire piece of Argentium sterling up to the right temperature for the solder to flow. 
  • Allow Argentium sterling extra time to cool after you heat it, because it is very malleable. Moving it too soon will damage the piece.
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