Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in Reticulation

To begin the process of getting a piece of reticulation silver prepared, you must anneal the piece of silver several times and then clean the surface after each annealing with a brass brush (how often one uses the brass brush is highly debatable).  The silver becomes ready to reticulate after somewhere between 5 to 9 times of this process. As the silver is heated, the copper oxidizes on the surface. Once the surface is pickled and cleaned, the copper is removed which leaves a surface nearly pure in silver content. This is what causes the surface to have a higher melting temperature than the alloy within. When the metal is heated one more time to bring out the texture, the surface will begin to move and form in rivers and valleys. There are no two pieces the same. The number of times you anneal and the size of the flame used to reticulate cause variations in the texture of the reticulated surface. Some people use large flames from a large torch tip, while others use a small torch tip. Both produce interesting designs, so I'm beginning to believe that there are numerous ways to experiment here.

A number of us are making a bracelet that uses reticulated silver on the outside and fine silver on the inside. They will be soldered at both the top and bottom and a box clasp and hinge added last. Here is where I am at in this process: One piece of formed silver and one piece of reticulation silver ready to be binded together with binding wire and soldered.

It's hard to believe this will all be one unit soon. It's not going to be easy. I've already seen the struggles of those who are ahead of me, so know what is coming. :)

In the meantime, I've made a simple ring with some of the leftover reticulated silver. It's holding a deep blue opal inside a 22K bezel.

Next time I'll tell you all about my week-long class in learning how to make clasps and closures.