How to Make a Silver Ingot?

Among the basic techniques of jewelry making, we find the ingot.
This consists of melting the metal to make an ingot, in order to roll it to obtain a plate, or to draw it to make wire.
If the melting of silver and gold requires some tools such as a crucible, an ingot mould and a flashlight, this investment can be interesting on the long term. Indeed, the jeweler will be able to melt his own metal scraps, and to make his own plates and wires, which will make him more autonomous.
Would you also like to make your own ingots?
You don’t know how to do it and you are afraid to miss your shot?
It’s normal, casting is a technique that impresses many beginners.
However, by knowing the steps of ingot making and having the right gestures, you will be able to cast your metal in a proper way, making it more resistant to the mechanical stresses it will undergo afterwards.

A Poly-Crystalline Material

Did you know that silver and gold are polycrystalline materials?
They are aggregates, which means that they are made of many crystals taken together.
This is what you see with granite, for example, which is made up of small white, pink and black crystals.
Metal is composed of billions of atoms which, in the liquid state, move around to form molecules, which are broken up and remade as they go along: this is continuous movement.
As the metal cools, the atoms slow down to static positions and assemble into crystals.
Many small crystals are formed simultaneously.
The faster the cooling, the more crystals are formed.
When making an ingot, it is best to have as many crystals as possible.
Depending on the working methods used, the jeweler will have a positive or negative impact on the condition of these crystals.
The number of crystals will therefore influence the durability of the metal and the risk of cracks appearing during the manufacturing stages of the jewel.
In the rest of this article, you will find tips on how to make a good ingot, so as to have more small crystals and therefore a larger surface to absorb the forces exerted on the metal during its transformation.

What You Should Know About Crystals

The bonds between the crystals in an ingot are weaker than the bonds between the atoms in a crystal.
Therefore, when the metal is over-stressed (by the jeweler’s work), cracks can develop between the crystals.
If there are many crystals in an ingot, the stress imposed by the deformation of the metal is distributed over a larger area than if there were few crystals.
Therefore, there is less chance of cracking during the manufacture of plate or wire with a metal composed of a large number of crystals.
Crystals continue to grow at low temperatures (250 to 300 degrees) in the metal, even when it is in a solid state.
Rapid cooling stops the growth of crystals and thus ensures that we have a maximum of small crystals in our metal.

this ingot which has not been tempered: the crystals have grown until they are visible to the naked eye

Crystals continue to grow at low temperatures (250 to 300 degrees) in the metal, even when it is in a solid state.
Rapid cooling stops the growth of crystals and thus ensures that we have a maximum of small crystals in our metal.

Tips And Steps To Make An Ingot

1- Prepare the ingot mould by wiping the surface with peanut oil or applying a soot deposit with the yellow flame of the flashlight.
The carbon in the oil or soot helps to absorb excess oxygen and thus prevents the formation of oxides in the metal.
The carbon layer also helps prevent the ingot from sticking to the mold.
2- Heat the ingot mould to about 150 degrees Celsius so that no moisture remains. Indeed, it would expand during the casting of the ingot, causing a porous texture on the surface. If you do not have a thermometer, simply heat the ingot with a flame that is not too high, until the evaporation of the water is complete (you will see condensation appear) and you have obtained a soot deposit, making the surface of the ingot black and matte.
3- Preheat the crucible with a little borax (silver) or boric acid (for gold – resists higher temperature). This step ensures that there is a heat source under the metal when it is placed in the crucible, making the temperature more even during melting.
It is not necessary to add borax or boric acid to each ingot. If the bottom of the crucible is already glassy, that’s fine. However, if it becomes less lustrous, it is a sign that more borax or boric acid is needed.
4-Once the metal is in the crucible, keep a reducing flame (more gas and less oxygen) on the metal at all times. The function of the reducing flame is to protect the metal from excessive oxygen absorption from the surrounding air, which could cause oxide formation in the metal. Excessive oxides would impair the malleability of the metal, and could cause cracking during rolling or drawing.

5- To ensure the smallest and most numerous crystals possible, no more than one minute should elapse between the time the metal is placed in the crucible and the time the metal is removed from the ingot mould for quenching.

6-You should never remove the flame from the metal during melting, not even to add a pinch of borax or boric acid. These are only added before the metal begins to melt.

7-As soon as the metal is completely melted, pour it into the mold. For larger amounts of metal, check that it is all melted by mixing the metal with a graphite or silica rod.

8-As soon as the metal is cast, take the ingot out of the mold to quench it in water or alcohol. Quenching is used to freeze the crystal growth to ensure that the metal is made of as many crystals as possible.

You now know how to make a good quality ingot that will resist cracks during the manufacturing of plates and wires – which is not negligible when you want to save time and effort during the work, and thus, increase your yield.
So it’s up to you!

Of course, you dont need to make an ingot when you can buy it!

Of course, you also can do it with your old jewels, or old silver stuff that you don’t want to use anymore. 

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