Human beings have been smithing silver for millennia. I was surprised to learn, therefore, that significant advances in silver metallurgy have been made as recently as the 1990s. Sterling silver, by definition, contains 92.5 wt% silver metal and 7.5% other metals, traditionally mostly copper. In 1998, however, Peter Johns of Middlesex University obtained a US patent on sterling silver alloys containing the semi-metallic element germanium as an additive. The resulting product, called Argentium, eliminates firescale, dramatically reduces tarnishing in air, and produces a more ductile metal. It is manufactured in the US by Stern-Leach, and the feedback from metalworkers I’ve been reading around the web is very positive. [Thanks, Jason!]

Handmade mechanical dragonfly

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • Carl Price

    Casting grains are available from most supply houses, I picked what I have been using from Rio Grande (.935 instead of .925 though). I love this silver, it is nice to work and cast, and from my experience doesn’t tarnish as easily. Did some rings and set stones in them, and it came out very nicely.

    • Eric

      As an added benefit, it’s also very resistant to firescale.
      Makes the manufacturing and “soldering” much easier, since there’s so little cleanup.

      I say “soldering” because most of the time, you actually fuse, like with fine silver, instead of solder. Soldering still works the same though, if you are attaching a dissimilar metal such as gold, sterling, copper, etc.

  • Jay

    Where are any rings made of this metal? Looks very nice.

    • Eric

      Google search(shopping sub catagory) for Argentium ring turns up tons of entries.
      Also, Places like Etsy.

      Finally, any silver ring you are having custom made, you may have to ask, but it can be made from Argentium just as easily.

  • Jason

    There are now two formulations of Argentium, and also a number of competing products that use differing formulations of germanium containing silver. While Argentium and similar alloys aren’t a complete substitute for standard sterling, there are now different alloys formulated for best use in different situations, a feat that a single alloy is hard pressed to accomplish.

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