Argentium Floral Pendant

Combine two modern forms of silver—Argentium and metal clay—to make a floral pendant that plays to the strengths of each material

SUPPLIES

  • Fine-silver metal clay, 6.3 g
  • 20-gauge (0.8 mm) annealed Argentium wire, about 10 in. (25.4 cm)
  • Argentium granules made from aproximately 4–5 in. (10.2–12.7 cm) of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) Argentium wire
  • 24-gauge (0.5 mm) Argentium sheet
    • 13⁄16 x 13⁄16  in. (30 x 30 mm)
    • 3⁄8 x 13⁄16 in. (10 x 30 mm)
  • Metal Clay toolbox
  • Soldering/Annealing toolbox
  • Finishing toolbox
  • 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm) circle cutter
  • Water spritzer
  • Shaper tool, taper point, soft tip, size 0
  • Polishing pad
  • Scissors or craft knife
  • Drill bits: #60 (0.040-in./1.02 mm), and #67 (0.032-in./0.81 mm) 
  • Ring mandrel or 1 in. (25.5 mm) wooden dowel 
  • Scrap paper
  • Pliers: chainnose or flatnose, and roundnose
  • Anti-firescale flux (My-T-Flux or Batterns)
  • Handheld shears, or a jeweler’s saw with a 3/0 blade
  • Plastic (Delrin) mallet
  • Ring clamp (optional)
  • Washer
  • Silicone polishing point (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Metal clay is perfect for sculpting, and much more time effective than carving wax and lost-wax casting. But although fine-silver metal clay can be used to create sheet and wire effects, it’s much more expensive and less structurally sound than Argentium sterling silver. This project uses minimal tools and materials while introducing basic techniques to combine both materials into a single piece.

METAL CLAY COMPONENTS

Roll out the clay. Apply a light amount of olive oil to your hands, an acrylic roller, and a flexible Teflon sheet. Use the acrylic roller to roll out an entire 6.3 g package of fine-silver metal clay three playing cards thick. 
Argentium Floral Pendant 1
Photo 1
Cut out the clay. Use a 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm) circle cutter to cut out as many circles as you can [PHOTO 1]. Reroll the leftover clay and cut out more circles. Reserve three circles and repackage any remaining scrap clay for the flower assembly. You’ll use the rest of the circles to make evenly sized petals. 

Lightly spritz all the clay circles with water, then cover them with plastic wrap. This will hydrate the clay for smooth forming and prevent the circles from drying while you form the petals. 

Form the petals. Place a clay circle in your palm. Use your index finger to roll the clay into a smooth ball.
Tip!
TIP: If your metal clay cracks while you work it, it is too dry. Lightly spritz the cracked clay with water, wrap it in plastic, and set it aside. Once the clay is rehydrated, roll into a smooth ball.
Argentium Floral Pendant 2
Photo 2
Roll the smooth ball with slightly more pressure on one side to form it into a tear-drop. Place the teardrop on the flexible Teflon sheet, and use a clear acrylic rolling plate to flatten it [PHOTO 2]
Argentium Floral Pendant 3
Photo 3
Argentium Floral Pendant 4
Photo 4
Use a needle tool to mark several fine veins in the pointed end of the petal, extending partially or completely to the rounded end [PHOTO 3]. Use a shaper tool to press a divot into the end of the petal [PHOTO 4]. Set that petal aside, and repeat to form petals with the remaining circles (minus the three reserved circles). 
 
Tip!
NOTE: Remember that real petals are all different, so make the texture and shapes of your petals individual.
Dry and refine the petals. Place the petals on a mug warmer until they are completely dry (see “Metal Clay Dryness” chart).

If the clay was kept moist, the edges might only need minor refinement. If that’s the case, once the petals are dry, use 600-grit sandpaper, followed by a polishing pad (such as a 3M ProPolish pad) to refine the edges. 

If your edges need a little more cleanup, start with 220- or 320-grit sandpaper and work up to 600-grit sandpaper, and then the polishing pad.

Assemble the flower petals. Use a small pair of scissors or a craft knife to cut off the pointed end of each petal. This allows the petals to fit more closely together.
Argentium Floral Pendant 5
Photo 5
Argentium Floral Pendant 6
Photo 6
Use the first of your three reserved clay circles for the back of the flower. Moisten the back circle with a drop of water and push the dry petals into the clay [PHOTO 5]. Over-lap a few petals to give the flower a bit more dimensionality. Because this flower needs to fit inside a circle roughly 1 in. (25.5 mm) in diameter, keep the flower to 5⁄8–3⁄4 in. (16–19 mm) in diameter. Set the flower on the mug warmer until it’s completely dry.

Add the flower’s center. Add a drop of water to the center of the flower to moisten the dry clay, then press a second reserved circle of wet clay onto the front center of the flower. Press the circle down firmly with the shaper tool to ensure a firm bond and form a slight depression [PHOTO 6].
Argentium Floral Pendant 7
Photo 7
Roll the remaining scrap clay into a small ball, then press the ball of clay into the center of the flower to create a dome [PHOTO 7]. This dome will hold the granules in place when you add them later. Dry the flower assembly completely.

Form a leaf drop.  Form the last reserved circle of clay in the same method described for petals, but mimic the veining pattern found in a leaf. Set the leaf on the mug warmer until it’s completely dry. 

NOTE: You will eventually need to drill a hole at the top of the leaf. You can do it now or after the metal is sintered. If you prefer to drill now, remember to take shrinkage into account -— use a #60 (0.040-in./1.02 mm) drill bit. If you drill the leaf after it is fired, use a #67 (0.032-in./0.81 mm) drill bit. 

Fire the metal clay. If needed, re-fine the edges of both components as before. Use a torch or kiln to fire the flower and leaf according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Argentium Floral Pendant 8
Photo 8
WIRE COMPONENTS

Form the pendant rim. Wrap one end of the 10-in. (25.4 cm) length of annealed 20-gauge (0.8 mm) Argentium sterling silver wire once around a 1-in. (25.5 mm) diameter wooden dowel or ring mandrel [PHOTO 8]. Hold the overlapped wire together, remove it from the mandrel, and use flush cutters to cut through the overlapping section of wire to form a circle. 

Form the bail rim. Cut a 3⁄8 x 13⁄16-in. (10 x 30 mm) piece of scrap paper, then cut it into a template that is the shape and finished size of the bail. Judge the proportions against the size of the pendant. 

NOTE: My bail is a tapered oval, approximately 1⁄4 x 1 in. (6.5 x 25.5 mm).
Argentium Floral Pendant 9
Photo 9
Argentium Floral Pendant 10
Photo 10
Use a mandrel or small dowel to form the excess 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire from the rim into roughly the shape of your template. Overlap the wire along a long edge [PHOTO 9]. Cut the wires where they overlap. 

Fuse the rims. Sand or file both ends of both rim wires for a flush fit, then apply flux and place them on a charcoal block. Use a small torch flame to fuse one rim, then the other [PHOTO 10] (see “Fusing Wire to Wire”). Let the rims air cool. 

TIP: After fusing Argentium, speed up the air-cooling process by carefully moving the hot metal to a steel bench block. The steel will act as a heat sink and draw the heat away from your work.

Place the pendant rim on the wooden dowel or ring mandrel and tap it lightly with a plastic mallet to reshape it. Reshape the curves of the bail rim with the mandrel or small dowel and plastic mallet. Straighten the long sides by gently squeezing the wire in the jaws of the chainnose or flatnose pliers.
Argentium Floral Pendant 11
Photo 11
Make the jump rings. Wind the remaining 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire around the shank of a #60 (0.040-in./1 mm) drill bit to form two jump rings for the top and bottom of the pendant [PHOTO 11]. If needed, support the coil in a ring clamp, and saw the rings apart. Close the jump rings, but don’t fuse them yet.

Make the granules. Cut a 4–5 in. (10.2–12.7 cm) length of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire for granules and form them into granules (see "Forming Granules").
  
FUSING THE PENDANT

Fuse the rims to the bases. Coat a 13⁄16 x 13⁄16-in. (30 x 30 mm) and a 3⁄8 x 13⁄16-in. (10 x 30 mm) sheet of 24-gauge (0.5 mm) Argentium sterling silver with flux. Place each rim on the appropriate base. Leave extra metal around the edge of the wire to allow for potential shrinkage. Set the bases on the charcoal block.
Argentium Floral Pendant 12
Photo 12
Argentium Floral Pendant 13
Photo 13
Argentium Floral Pendant 14
Photo 14
Argentium Floral Pendant 15
Photo 15
Argentium Floral Pendant 16
Photo 16
Argentium Floral Pendant 17
Photo 17
Argentium Floral Pendant 18
Photo 18
Use the torch without a tip to heat the pieces one at a time until the rim fuses to its base [PHOTO 12] (see “Fusing Wire to Sheet”). Check that the seams are fused entirely around the rim. Air cool and pickle to remove residual flux.

Place jump rings and granules. Place two jump rings on opposing sides of the rim on the pendant base. Brace each jump ring with two granules against the rim to provide a stronger attachment. Then line the inner rim with granules [PHOTO 13].

NOTE: Use as little flux as possible when placing the jump rings and granules. 

Dip the flower into the flux, drain the excess, and carefully place it in the center of the pendant. Add granules to the center dome. Let the flux dry completely. 

Fuse the pendant. Warm the pendant in a cone of heat, carefully watching for any movement of the granules as the flux expands. If necessary, use tweezers or a pick to push stray granules back into place. The fine silver will heat faster than the Argentium, so be careful not to overheat the flower. Keep the temperature below fusing until all the pieces are properly settled into place. 

Once all the bits are in position, increase to fusing temperature [PHOTO 14]. Maintain the heat until all the pieces are adhered.

Cut the bail base. Use handheld shears or a jeweler’s saw with a 3/0 blade to trim the excess metal from around the bail rim. File and sand the edges and back of the bail base using progressively finer grits of sandpaper from 320- to 600-grit. 

Form the bail. Set the midpoint of the bail base against a 5⁄32-in. (4 mm) mandrel. Bend the base around the mandrel. 

Granulate the bail. Using flux, your brush, and some patience, place granules around the entire inside circumference of the bail rim. There is a little fussiness to get the granules to fit evenly, but once in place, the surface tension from the flux will hold them there. To help avoid slumping, stand the bail on its edge while you fuse the granules [PHOTO 15].

FINISHING AND ASSEMBLY

Trim the pendant.
Use shears or the jeweler’s saw to trim the excess metal from around the pendant base. Cut around the perimeter of the pendant rim and the jump rings. File and use progressively finer grits of sandpaper from 320- to 600-grit to sand the edges and back of the pendant base.

Drill the holes. Use the #60 (0.040-in./1.02 mm) drill bit to drill holes in the center of each fused jump ring on the pendant and in both ends of the bail [PHOTO 16]. When drilling the bail, support it with a dowel or other wooden tool through the opening, and drill alternately from both sides [PHOTO 17]. 

Connect the components. Ball up one end of a 1-in. (25.5 mm) piece of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire. Insert the straight end of the balled-up wire through the front of the bail, the base, and the back of the bail. Place the components on the charcoal block, making sure the ball of the wire is snug against the front of the piece. Trim the wire if necessary, and use a tight, hot flame to ball up the straight end to complete the connection. Aim the torch flame across the narrowest part of the work to avoid heating the bail itself [PHOTO 18]. 

Ball up one end of a 1-in. (25.5 mm) piece of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire. Insert the straight end of the balled-up wire through the front of the pendant. Use roundnose pliers to create a shallow U bend extending past the bottom of the pendant. Insert the wire through the back of the leaf. Place the components on the charcoal block, making sure the ball of the wire is snug against the front of the pendant. Trim the wire if necessary, and use a tight, hot flame to ball up the straight wire end to complete the connection. 

Apply a patina.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to patinate the pendant with liver of sulfur. Remove patina from raised areas with a polishing cloth, or a fine silicone polishing point in a flex shaft or rotary tool. 
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