Wednesday, 27 March 2013

What is Reticulation?

Reticulation is a method of texturing the surface of silver through controlled heating to created a ripply texture. You can see an example of this on the flower pendant below, created by Kernowcraft's Jeweller Pete Hodge. This is a really nice technique to use but does take some careful torch work and some practice to refine! The ridges and ripples create shadows and interesting surface texture which adds a nice organic look to designs. It also works well used with a patina like Liver of Sulphur which will darken the silver but particularly the deeper areas - you can always polish up the higher areas so that the patina sits only in the pits and sunken areas.

To reticulate silver you will need to repeatedly heat up a piece of silver sheet to annealing temperature and then quench and pickle. Repeatedly doing this about 8 times, strips the surface of its copper content and brings the pure silver up to the surface. Further heating will cause the surface to move and wrinkle up in a sea like appearance. You can influence the pattern and textures created with the direction of the torch, or introducing a second torch. Often though the results can be unpredictable, so it is a good idea to reticulate some silver and then cut out the area you want and base your design around that.

To find out more about reticulation we would recommend a book such as the wonderful jeweller Jinks McGrath's 'The Jewellers Directory of Decorative Finishes'  and practice! Jink's offers a clear step by step process plus lots of helpful tips that will help you achieve successful results quickly. You will find that serendipity will often govern designs using reticulation, so go with the flow and enjoy the process...

If you would prefer a more consistent effect but without any of the hassle we do have a clever metal that with a small amount of heat will instantly reticulate into a wonderful rippled texture. The crinkle metal is very easy to use and the way it is made means that unlike traditional reticulated silver it will hold its shape if you are wanting to form it into a shape - for example a dome. To find out more about this exciting new metal click here.

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