Q: I love working with silver but prices have been so high lately. How can I stretch my stash?
A: We did get used to rather reasonable prices on silver for the last 6 or 7 years, but it has risen and the pundits are calling for it to rise even more. While pundits are often wrong, rather than wait and see, I’ll offer some tips on making the most of the supply you have and can afford.
Save all of your scrap! Here are some suggestions as to what you can do with your scrap metal:
-Use it for casting either into an ingot or with one of the direct casting methods such as broom casting, water casting, etc. If this interests you, I wrote an Ask Betsy column in the February 2020 newsletter different types of direct casting which you can find on https://massconline.com/newsletter
-Use pieces of scrap for decoration. Fuse it onto sheet, cut it into shapes and solder/fuse/ rivet it onto another type of metal for a mixed-metal piece or even onto something like Faux Bone or wood.
- When making a bezel, opt for an open backplate by sawing out the interior of the backplate leaving just a big enough lip to support the stone. Save that extra cut out piece for other purposes like earrings or smaller settings.
-If you work in wire, either save up the ends or make them into silver balls. You’ll have a collection to use for decoration, granulation or using in a shot plate.
-If you have a built up supply, send it to a refiner! A refiner will often either send you a check for your scrap or a credit that you can use to purchase new stock if they offer it. There’s usually a fee, and they will vary from company to company. Keep your eye out for a more in depth article on this topic in next months newsletter!
Finally, consider alternative metals. Copper, brass and bronze are less expensive but you can use the skills you have from working with silver to create your work. A number of jewelers are using mild steel, stainless steel, pewter, aluminum and other alternatives. Be advised, though, that these metals use different techniques than you may be used to. There is a lot of information online, including some classes, which give you information on what type of solder, pickle, torch (or no torch) to use and different techniques for working them. If you have any questions on any of these, please feel free to send them in.
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