This heat based process creates a ridged and rippled effect across the surface of the silver, it is a unique effect and once the process has been mastered can produce stunning results.
Sterling silver and fine silver may be used for the process, but reticulation results are more effective using specifically processed reticulation silver, this is usually 80 – 83% fine silver and 20 – 17% copper , however one should bear in mind that when using reticulation silver the finished piece would not be of a hallmarkable quality.
As the results are unpredictable and can result in some shrinkage, it is usual to reticulate the silver before piercing your design in order to use the most spectacular areas of the sheet in the construction of your jewellery piece.
Time should be taken to ensure that the sheet silver is prepared properly, the aim is to build up a layer of fine silver on the surface of the metal, before moving to the reticulation process.
Firstly the sheet should be annealed, if possible you should aim to maintain the silver at the dull red glow stage for at least two minutes and then quench in a hot pickle bath, remove after about three minutes and thoroughly clean and dry before repeating this process six times. At this stage you should be left with only a fine layer of silver on the surface with no trace of copper oxides.
The Reticulation Stage
Place the silver on a clean soldering surface and heat slowly and evenly with a bushy flame until it glows a deep red, at this point reduce to a smaller flame and move the blue tip closer to the metal, the silver should begin to shimmer and move where the blue flame touches, move the flame evenly across the metal, taking care not to concentrate the flame in one area for too long as this may result in the area collapsing and creating holes in the sheet.
Once the desired effect has been achieved the piece should be left to cool for a while and then quenched in the hot pickle solution. Once all the firestain has disappeared remove the silver from the pot and clean thoroughly with pumice powder.
It should be noted that reticulated silver is more porous than sterling silver and you may find the need to use more solder than usual, it is wise to burnish the edge of the reticulated silver surface to be soldered first, as this can reduce the solder absorption, so making the process a little easier.