Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From Drawing to Metal

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my design process for a custom ring. That post detailed how I start with an idea, develop the drawings, and convert them to texture plates. Finally, I'm happy to report that the design has been reduced to metal.

Canary Ring
sterling silver
©2013 Vickie Hallmark
I used the original texture plate to impress the design into sterling silver clay, which was dried over a domed form to give the bowl shape. Then I hand-fabricated the ring shank from Argentium sterling silver. I felt it needed to be wide enough to support the one inch diameter top, but wanted it to be comfortable to wear, so I cut the band five millimeters wide, but filed a taper on both sides to reduce the edge against the palm to just over two millimeters. In the next photo, you can see that I also used my leaf vine texture to simultaneously pattern the back of the bowl.

Canary Ring, back
sterling silver
©2013 Vickie Hallmark

The Argentium band was secured to the unfired clay form via extra clay, including my usual small oval hallmark with my swallow, initial logo, and .925 quality mark. Then the entire ring underwent the two stage firing process required for sterling clay. First, the ring was supported in vermiculite while slowly heating to 1000ºF and holding for thirty minutes to burn out the organic binders that glue the tiny metal particles together in the raw clay. During this stage, the Argentium darkened somewhat, but didn't develop fire scale like regular sterling would. Then the ring was buried in carbon and refired at 1500ºF for two hours to allow the metal particles to move to compact and sinter the metal into a solid piece of sterling silver. After cooling, the entire ring had a very slight golden color to it, which was quickly polished away.

Canary Ring
sterling silver
©2013 Vickie Hallmark

I think this is my new favorite ring!!

5 comments:

  1. Love it! I like the look of it... like a big coin... very nice!

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  2. Hey Vickie! I am shocked! The melting point of Argentium is less than 1500, but you were able to fire it with the sterling? I am so thrilled to hear this....I have had to make so many adjustments in the past because I thought I couldn't fire it that high. So....it doesn't become brittle??? Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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    1. Hey, Sue! Sounds like I shoul write a pat about this. The solidus for Argentium is 1610, which is we'll above my firing temp. It's only 40 deg below trad sterling, so I assume if sterling could stand up that Atrgentium could too. I've been embedding wires without any problems so far. I did size the ring up slightly by hammering to compensate for the extra metal I added inside. Worked beautifully.

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  3. Well, that's what I get for trying to post a comment from my phone! I meant liquidus, but said solidus -- I'll post about this soon.

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  4. Well...silly me. I've always been looking at the solidus temp...don't know why? Anyway...I am thrilled to hear this! Have a great day.

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