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So what’s the big deal about Argentium?

April 28, 2010

I used to consider myself a gold fiend. It never rubbed me the wrong way (I have sensitive skin), always seemed to glow beautifully, and overall just seemed like the most desireable option whenever I had an opportunity to make a purchase. Problem was, it was also a good deal more expensive (plated just wasn’t my style), and so it never quite quenched my jewelry thirst.


 Of course, once I started beading and making my own jewelry, things started to change. My collection began to include silver, and I found its bright, shiny qualities added a professional look to my creations (as a side note: although silver it’s considerably more affordable than gold, I was rather shocked by how quickly a few clasps and components can add up … and grateful my husband didn’t ask too many questions).
However, as I soon discovered, the downside of sterling is tarnish. Simply put, tarnish is a natural process that occurs when sterling silver is exposed to air (in scientific terms, it oxidizes). So to keep silver jewelry in top shape, most people resort to keeping their pieces stored in plastic bags. Even then, you still need to keep a polishing cloth on hand for the occasional touch up.
As for me, even though I LOVE wearing jewelry, I don’t like to wear it when I’m cooking or wearing my comfy yoga pants, so the truth is I have a tendency to take it off as soon as I walk in the door at home. And find a little plastic storage bag to put it in? Dream on? I’m lucky if it lands in the same place on my bookshelf. So needless to say, I found myself polishing silver pretty regularly, which was rather a drag.
And then one night as I was perusing a jewelry supply catalog before bed, one particular item caught my eye … “Argentium Wire, extremely tarnish resistant …” I didn’t need to read any further to know I needed to learn more. Turns out that it isn’t really the silver that makes sterling silver develop tarnish. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, but it’s mixed in with other elements such as nickel and copper, which make it prone to oxidation. By contrast, Argentium is an alloy with a different mix of ingredients ~ about the same amount of silver, but some of those other metals are replaced with another element called germanium.
OK — enough with the science lesson — let me tell you, the results of my first forays into Argentium were amazing. Not only did the wire maintain its beautiful shine  as I worked with it (becoming even shinier after a little time in my tumbler), but I was also impressed (make that very impressed) with its strength. I found myself wearing clasps that felt really secure and sturdy, and it wasn’t hard to notice that my jump rings didn’t seem to stretch out much. Eventually, I even tried making some ring blanks with argentium  and was delighted to see how well they held their shape.
Now, about a year after I started working with Argentium wire, I’m pleased to report that I don’t even feel the slightest twinge of lust when I see a case full of gold jewelry … not when I know I have a drawer full of Argentium waiting at home for me …
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