American jeweller Cynthia Eid visited ACJ-Bristol on 1st August.
Chris Pate hosted us at Touchmark Studios in her lovely teaching room, in a village near Bristol.
Cynthia gave a presentation on Argentium silver, and a demonstration of its uses.Argentium silver (AS) was invented by Peter Johns of Middlesex University. It contains 1.2% Germanium, which is an oxygen grabber (that's the scientific term). This forms a layer of germanium oxide on the surface of the metal which then prevents the formation of copper oxides - NO firescale! It also prevents tarnishing in the long term.
The other main remarkable property of AS is that, after all processes are complete, it can be hardened at a relatively low temperature (eg in a domestic oven) for half an hour or so, which means that delicate additions like earwires are hardened without stressing. Also, a thinner gauge of metal can be used and then hardened.
Cynthia gave us a powerpoint presentation on this amazing new material, and after lunch (fantastic as usual, thanks to members' non-jewellery skills) she demonstrated practical aspects. AS fuses very well, and works broadly like sterling. It is more brittle at high temperatures, so must be well supported for high heat operations (soldering, fusing). Because it does not conduct heat as well as sterling, there is no need to heat the whole piece; the torch temperature is higher than we use for sterling too, it seems. AS needs a special flux, and Cynthia recommends MY-T-Flux from Rio Grande, who also sell the metal and solders. Cooksons are the main suppliers in the UK.
When our chins had returned from dropping on the floor, there was a barrage of questions and extensive discussion of working methods, where Cynthia was most generous with her expert advice.
Unfortunately there was no time to see Cynthia's presentation of her own work, which is beautiful and made with considerable skill. She specialises in micro-folding, fold-forming and the use of the hydraulic press.
The week following our workshop saw Cynthia teaching use of the hydraulic press at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham, and there is talk of her returning to teach there next year.
Many thanks to Cynthia Eid for an inspiring day.