Silver jewellery is often considered as the poor cousin of gold and other forms of jewellery. Talk of silver jewellery is always a little bit lesser than gold or other forms of precious metal jewellery mainly because its value is also lesser. However, that doesn't take anything away from the fact that this metal is also one of the most popular metals used in the creation of jewellery around the world. In fact, metal jewellery would not be where it is today without the introduction of silver jewellery into the fray.
Whether being used as an additive to make other forms of jewellery more sustainable or simply as something that you wear when you are looking for a mix of the casual and expensive look, silver jewellery can never be shunned away into a lesser bracket. Throughout history, silver jewellery has been a regular part of the attire across many civilizations. It is quite interesting how the degree of whiteness and reflection combines with the excellent workable characteristics that silver has, and you get the perfect metal jewellery for you!
Making Silver Jewellery
Silver comes second in the list of the most malleable metal in the world, after gold, and ranks at the same level when it comes to ductility. That means, working with silver and making it into beautiful designs requires the same kind of work that something like gold requires. Pure silver is never hard enough to be used in jewellery and, therefore, using an alloy called "sterling silver", is the best way to ensure that silver jewellery can be made with flexibility of design and more. The main thing to know about sterling silver is that it is about 92.5 percent pure silver combined with about 7.5 percent copper. This makes the silver strong enough to be workable, without too many issues.
Making silver jewellery at home is easy if you can get hold of the materials required and the equipment involved in the process. The idea is to melt the metals down, both silver and copper, and then mix them in the right proportions before letting them cool down. The right proportions required to make sterling silver will not just depend on the weight of the materials, but also on their quality. If you get cheap quality ingredients, then they will always have impurities in them, which will further ruin the proportions of your metal and make your silver jewellery not worth much.
Firescale in Silver Jewellery
Every time you heat silver alloys, there is a special characteristic that it has, which is a stain that starts appearing on the surface. This stain is called "Firescale", which is nothing but the creation of copper oxide under the surface of the piece you are making. This happens when oxygen combines with copper during the heating process, especially when the metal alloys are heated to very high temperatures.
The longer you heat the metal alloy for, at high temperature, the more are the chances of Firescale appearing on your piece before the annealing, or soldering, process. It may not be seen immediately because Firescale tends to be hidden due to something called depletion plating wherein all signs of oxidation on the surface of the metal are removed. This process involves pickling the silver jewellery and raising the fine metal content on the surface to ensure that the upper layer becomes one with the metal that the jewellery is made of, which is silver in this case. When you are sanding and polishing the surface, you will find that it comes out once again and you will see the purple-coloured layer or stain sitting right on the surface of the piece.
There are two ways to fix Firescale and its appearance on your silver jewellery creations. The first is prevention, wherein you prevent oxygen from getting trapped or sealed inside the metal. When you heat the metal in a controlled space, where there is no oxygen, then you will not have anything that can combine with copper to produce that final effect of Firescale. However, unless you have a proper equipment-filled manufacturing space, it's highly unlikely that you will be able to control the kind of air that surrounds your work area, especially if you are working out of your workshop in your garage.
The alternative is to use something called flux, which is basically a thin layer of another metal that has greater chances of blocking oxygen from going in once the heating process starts. The flux becomes transparent as the heat gets to it, so it forms a layer of transparent protection over the silver jewellery. Using borax or boric acid, mixed with some alcohol, you can easily create that flux you need to protect silver jewellery from this entire process.
Making silver jewellery is all about spending a little bit of time working on the techniques, handling the heating process and working your final metal into the jewellery shape you want. If you are interested in making jewellery then silver jewellery is a great place to start. It's cheaper, easier and, therefore, much more accessible for everyone, especially if you are graduating from the lower range of metals into the precious metals' category. So before you start working on gold jewellery on your own, start off working on silver jewellery and get a hang of things.