Monday, May 16, 2016

05.16.18 The Magic of Argentium - Getting to know your flame

Ronda Coryell is the Professor McGonagall of argentium silver. For anyone out there who might not remember, Prof. Minerva McGonagall taught classes in transformation - changing the physical characteristics of an object...and that is exactly the kind of wizardry I learned in a week long class with Ronda, working with argentium.

I hardly know where to begin - we covered so much material - and completed four pairs of beautiful earrings in five days!  On our first day, Ronda gave us a set of detailed, step by step instructions (13 pages) for four pairs of earrings we would make.  She was clear from the beginning that each project was designed to teach specific things about BOTH the metal and the techniques we would be using.

The first project - pair of twisted wire hoop earrings, on a post - was an introduction to annealing (heating the metal to soften it enough to work with), soldering (attaching two pieces of silver using solder) and fusing (joining two pieces of metal by heating to the point that the molecules bond).

Even though I had worked with argentium a little prior to starting the class - I really did not have a good understanding of how to use the torch and adjust the flame to make the metal do what I wanted it to...but after just 8 hours at the bench on that first day, I felt like a new world of silver fabrication had opened up to me.

As a master goldsmith, Ronda was able to share "tricks of the trade", that seemed so obvious once she demonstrated them - but of course, they would never have occurred to me before.  One in particular, was using tiny (1 mm) jump ring as a guide for soldering on earposts.  By fusing the jump ring to one end of the hoop, you can make a reservoir for the solder, so it doesn't run down the sides of the earring as you are trying to place a tiny piece of wire to create the post.  The result, properly positioned findings on the completed hoops

This is the pair I made - and went home with - on Monday!  One day at the bench, one pair of earrings...the week was off to a fun, fast and exciting start.  In fact, after completing the hoops, we started our second project - "slumped" earrings before we called it a day.

That project deserves it's own post - but I'll leave you with a picture of how I left my bench on Monday evening.

Until next time.

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