Hi Roger, can you tell us about Argentium and how it works?
The birth of Argentinum Silver came about in 1989 when I joined Middlesex University as a Senior Lecturer in Silversmithing at the same time as Peter Johns who took on the role of Senior Technician. At that time the university had been presented with the opportunity to look into the possible application of a number of materials which were stock piling and seeking a usage, Germanium was one of them. From Peters knowledge he knew that the application of Germanium in silver had been tried in the past but showed little advantage however this did not deter him from experimenting. The aim was to reduce the copper content added into silver to increase its strength however copper creates fire stain in the silver surface when heated. Fire stain is a grey film which forms under the silver surface and can only be removed by heavy polishing and surface removal. Some manufacturers will silver plate over this to hide it. Germanium is a “Metalloid” part metal and part silicon and not easy to mix into molten silver, this is where the technological work began.
It is our understanding that by reducing the copper and adding Germanium allows the transparent Germanium oxide to rise to the surface of the silver acting as a protective boundary layer in the same way that Chromium oxide added to steel creates stainless steel. This transparent oxide stops the fire stain during the making process of objects and also keeps the surface finished of silver from tarnishing.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your history with Argentium?
From my position within the university I was able to direct support to start the experimental process. Over the 20 years at Middlesex University both Peter and my positions grew along with more funding and increased commercial interest in this silver development. Through my own early experimentation with the material I discovered that when heated close to its melting point it would fuse to itself as well as other metals. This was a curious anomaly as to my knowledge no other Metal was able to do this.
Quite why this Germanium boundary layer enables Argentium silver to fuse I don’t fully understand however the fact that it does and in doing so has opened up a great number of possibilities. While Peter continues to pursue industrial applications of the material the amateur, craft, and professional jewellery world has continued to exploit its potential. Another unique aspect of the Germanium oxide is that when the silver is melted the oxide acts as a retaining skin around the melt holding it tightly into a ball. These balls can be applied to work in a granular fashion as decoration or even construction.
With metal work there are three main requirements, that of cutting, forming and joining. Argentinum fusion has added a new dimension to joining making it easier and cleaner. In doing so it has opened up opportunities for many amateur and aspiring jewellers globally in start-up businesses from humble beginnings on a kitchen table.
What first piqued your interest in jewellery making?
If I claim to be a Jeweller it means that I am excluding all the other aspects of my interests, experience and abilities. I therefore have difficulty in applying a title to myself. It was the mixture of painting, craftwork and dyslexia at school which set my pathway to Hornsey College of Art where I studied product design that intern opened my interest into Silversmithing as it combined both craft and design.
Painting and drawing meant I can express, evaluate and develop an idea on paper. Craft hand skills enabled me to construct an idea in three dimensions. My Dyslexia, although having exposed many embarrassments, has given me an inventive and creative perspective on everything that I do. I have often been asked the question “Where do ideas come from” the common answer is “your head” this is not true. Ideas come from the ability to manipulate, examine, evaluate and apply from many sources of information. It is a combination of all this which fascinates and inspires me.
On leaving Hornsey and gained a place at the Royal College of Art where I pursued Silversmithing for three years and where I obtained my master’s degree. I was lucky in so far as being the only silversmithing student that year.
I am now at the age of 77 and although spending 20 years at Middlesex University I continued with my business activities as Taylor Designs from the age of 24, mostly employing my skills is servicing other designers in the manufacturing of all sorts of items. During the 77 years I have engaged with many notable companies and clients covering product design, silversmithing, engineering, research, patented inventions, and fine jewellery.
Where can we follow the future adventures of Argentium?
It was only two years ago that I was asked to engage with Allied Gold, the now owner of the rights to the material Argentium, and to help with Argentium craft promotion. The start of this was with Jewellery Maker and the creating of different simply ways of using the material with the minimum of equipment. Further to this is the new development and launch of the Argentium Foundation programme website https://argentiumcourses.com/. Where anyone interested in jewellery making can start the programme along with help support and video tutorials leading to a recognised standard. There is also the Argentium Guild website at www.argentiumguild.com where you can browse through all its many members, their work, and inspirations for the material. The Guild is open to all and a good place to become inspired and become a future member.
How would you describe your jewellery in 3 words?
I can only think of two that is Miniature Engineering.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to give jewellery making a go?
The way to encourage anyone thinking about making jewellery or anything creative is to Just do it. Something will always come from doing but nothing will come from doing nothing. The thrills, excitement and discoveries are so rewarding when you discover something you never thought possible about yourself. I look forward to continuing to inspire people in engaging with creativity.