Jewelry Making Reticulation Brings Interest To Your Designs

jewelry making reticulation

Jewelry Making Reticulation - The process produces exciting textured surfaces of metal alloys that are unpredictable and exciting.

Jewelry making reticulation is the process in which metal is made to Reticulation is a two part process; the first step is created by annealing the jewelry making metal. As the silver is heated each time, the copper oxidizes on the surface. Once the silver is cleaned and pickled the copper is removed leaving behind a surface that is mostly pure silver. This produces a surface with a higher melting point than the alloys found within. The second part of the process begins when the metal is heated once again, to just below the flow point, creating natural embellishments of ridges and valleys.

Many metals can be easily reticulated but an allow of 82% silver and 18% copper produce the most dramatic results. You can purchase silver sheet that has been prepared with higher copper content at Rio Grande Jewelry Supply Company or any Jewelry making supply manufacturer like Hoover and Strong. >

This technique works best when you have a lower melting core and higher melting exterior, hence the need for the two part process, then you heat it to the point that the core starts to be mobile and the pressure of the torch flame across the surface which causes the exterior shell to buckle and move.

Many metals can be easily reticulated but an alloy of 82% silver and 18% copper produce the most dramatic results. You can purchase silver sheet that has been prepared with higher copper content at Rio Grande Jewelry Supply Company or any jewelry making supplies manufacturer like Hoover and Strong.

To obtain the best results use at least a 20 or 18 gauge metal or that is 1 mm thick.

Step-by-Step Process:

Part 1

  1. Heat the piece of silver to a temperature ranging from 1,100 to 1,200 F (800 to 850 C). Use a control flame for approximately 5 minutes. Since the purpose of this process is to bring the copper alloy to the surface, do not use any flux that can prevent oxidation.

  2. Pickle the silver piece to remove the copper oxide.

  3. Rinse the piece in water.

  4. Heat the piece again, this time for ten minutes. Oxygen is blocked from penetrating the silver rich surface and promotes the copper oxide to move to the surface. At this point the piece should be slightly gray.

  5. Pickle and rinse again.

You may repeat this process at least five times to obtain best results. Practice and experience will give you a better feel for the process and you will be able to control it more.

Part 2

  1. Heat a soldering block, place the piece of metal on the preheated block.

  2. Bring the metal to red using a controlled hot flame. Quickly pass the hot flame over an area of the piece and remove it. The surface of the metal will turn liquid, move the flame over the surface with a controlled movement – the differences in temperature and stresses within the metal is what creates interesting textures. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERHEAT THE METAL.

  3. Allow the metal to cool to cool naturally and then pickle.

  4. Once the desired texture is achieved clean the metal with pumice powder and some liquid soap. I use a brass brush to give more texture.

  5. Remember that once the metal has been reticulated it can be more brittle in certain parts and stronger in others. Take this into consideration when incorporating it into a piece of jewelry.

Jewelry making reticulation

Resists can be used with Jewelry making reticulation process; you can use a resist medium such as, white-out, or clear paint it onto the surface and then heat and reticulate the metal. Where resist was placed it will stay smooth and everywhere else it will help the jewelry making reticulation process.

You can also create interesting pattern development in the metals by placing smooth pieces of steel under the spots you want to remain smooth. The steel acts like heat sinks and prevents the reticulation from taking place.

I incorporate reticulation on pieces that have been previously formed using a hydraulic press. This allows me to create sculpture like pieces that are both pleasing and artistic.

Jewelry Making Tips and Techniques

How to Obtain the Best Reticulation Results

  • The type of support materials you use for jewelry making reticulation is very important. A charcoal or graphite block will make reticulation more difficult because they are thermal conductors. They take much longer to heat the energy away from the piece. A ceramic or high fiver product such as “fiberbrick” will yield better results. This is because the ceramic acts as a thermal insulator allowing the metal to heat more efficiently.

  • Controlling the flame is another key factor: Begin by moving the torch over the entire metal surface and then localize the flame to begin the reticulation. By controlling the torch movement you will be able to create some interesting patterns.

  • Because the process is so unpredictable, always start with a larger piece of metal than the size you need to create a particular piece. I prefer to let the metal guide me before designing my final work.

  • Once you are happy with how the reticulated-silver looks, you can then remove the most interesting sections and incorporate them into your jewelry.

  • Even small pieces can be used as accents in earrings, pendants, or cuff links. There will almost always be some metal scrapped, however, so take that into consideration when pricing.

    The jewelry making reticulation process is not difficult, but it does take practice, concentration, and a steady torch hand. The pattern and appearance of a reticulated piece is not predictable; you probably won't get the same results twice. So, be flexible and just have fun!

    From Jewelry making reticulation back to the jewelry making annealing

    For more information on jewelry making reticualtion visit how to make jewelry

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