Wire wraps

Hi, you have a great site! My question is, in wire wrapping stones with 22 gauge argentium wire, can you successfully tumble them to harden them without bending the heck out of the setting? Would you use the plastic shot for that? I appreciate your help!


Stacy's Answer:

Hi Lori!

You should be able to successfully tumble them in regular Stainless steel tumbling medium as far as the wire is concerned, but be careful about the gemstones! Are they non-porous and not dyed? Are they tough enough to be tumbled? Even in plastic pellets, dyed or porous stones such as pearls, corals and turquoise can be damaged. Porous stones are often dyed also.

As long as you're not tumbling fragile wire wraps that are away from instead of tight to the stones they're wrapped around, and if the gem material can be tumbled, you should be fine! Argentium tumbles beautifully! And yes, tumbling does help to harden it somewhat.

Remember to tumble like-with-like. Meaning don't tumble the 22 gauge wire wrapped items together with a heavy item that could damage them. If in doubt, experiment and try one first.

Comments for Wire wraps

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Oct 19, 2010
Hardening Argentium
by: Maria

Tumbling Argentium in stainless steel shot destroys the Germanium coating, which means that the piece is no longer tarnish resistant. You could use crushed walnut shell instead of the stainless steel, but I find this can be a pain to clean if the wire piece is intricate. The best method is to heat harden it in the oven. Check the Argentium website for instructions: Argentium Silver

Oct 19, 2010
A few more words about Argentium
by: Stacy

Good observations, Maria. I would like to expand upon what you said.

After many applications such as annealing, fusing or even polishing with anything other than a soft cloth and Goddard's etc., Argentium must be heated to raise the Germanium alloy to the surface thus providing the tarnish resistance this metal is loved for. However, raising the Germanium layer, even at the low temperature of 250 degrees for about 20 minutes or so, is not an option for some gem materials. Heat hardening requires heating for 45 to 60 minutes at 580°F and then air-cooling to room temperature. Not an option for many gemstones and hotter than a lot of household ovens will go. Diamonds and lab-created corundum varieties such as sapphires and rubies can handle the heat without a problem. While cubic zirconia (CZ) would probably be OK at the heat hardening temperature, CZs and heat are unpredictable.

While Argentium has many wonderful properties, it is arguably not the best choice for some jewelry applications. If you can't take advantage of its tarnish resistance or fusibility, why not use Sterling? Admittedly, I'm still learning about the pros and cons and numerous quirks of this metal. I use it primarily for fabricated items using sheet metal or wire used to make rings or granulation and where I can take advantage of its fusibility - love that! All of which can be heated to raise the tarnish-resistant alloy or to heat harden, then adding gemstones after the metal has been treated so-to-speak and, finally, finishing with a light polish by hand with a soft cloth.

Here's a wonderful article about Argentium. It's full of great tips!

I agree with you Maria, that walnut shells are not an option as they have a bad tendency to get stuck in all the wrong places in jewelry with nooks and crannies for them to work themselves into. Best use those for solid bangles, etc...items with all smooth surfaces. The Argentium website does have lots of great information! Thanks for sharing the link!

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