Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reticulating Silver

First, it was etching. I love etching. I am etching everything I can get my hands on and hope to some day afford an electronic etch system for silver. For now, I etch brass and copper like no tomorrow.

THEN, I discovered reticulating silver. WOW! This is really fun, and really simple. I've seen reticulated silver before, and figured it was created through some incredibly difficult process that was far beyond my skill-set. WRONG. The look of rugged peaks, valleys, bumps and lumps I love so much are created with heat, and patience. With my little butane torch I can easily heat stering silver discs and sheet to red, then, with steady, even heat, start the reticulation process. You can see the bubbles begin to form on the nearly molten surface, then you have to stop, and clean the silver either by pickling or by hand with patina prep or whatever else you like to use to clean silver. This removes all the impurities that are in the silver, which come to the surface when heated. Then, back under the torch. Keep your flame even over the surface, don't focus the flame in one spot or you might burn right through the silver. Do this several times until you get the pattern or look that you like, cleaning between each torch session. The silver will deform, so start with a piece larger than what you want to end up with. I love the deformed look, and usually leave it at that. When you are happy with the results, clean thouroughly, and burnish either by hand or with a wire brush wheel/dremel. Be sure to look at both sides, sometimes the bottom side turns out even more interesting than the top! From here you can hammer (be a bit careful here, reticulating makes the silver somewhat brittle), cut, and patina to your heart's content. COOL!

Pictured here is a ring I made combining etched brass with reticulated silver and a baroque freshwater pearl. I just love the ancient, organic look!!! More to come....

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