What is Reticulation?

Let me try to explain …

Perhaps it is best to start with an image of a finished piece made using this technique:

Silver Pendant with reticulated texture

Silver drop pendant with reticulated surface texture

The texture on the surface of this drop pendant is achieved with reticulation.  Essentially this involves repeated heating of the sterling silver to force a layer of fine (100% pure) silver to accumulate on the surface.  This process of heating is called “annealing”.  Once the pure silver layer is present, the torch flame is targeted on specific areas of the surface, causing the fine silver to melt and run – removing the flame abruptly causes the surface to crumple and fold into random patterns.  As such, the effect can never be repeated exactly, making each piece truly unique.

This technique relies for its success on the difference between melting points and cooling rates within the piece of metal – when one area contracts more than another, the rippling effect occurs.

The process is best performed on sheet metal which is at least 1mm thick.  Silver, gold or brass can be used and the technique may be carried out before or after cutting and shaping of  the final design.

Another idea is to add very fine pieces of fine silver in patterns on the surface of the sheet.  Repeated annealing of the sheet is not necessary for this method to succeed as the fine silver cuttings will disrupt the surface tension of the sheet metal when it’s heated.  The fine silver does not melt and can be moved around in the molten surface of the sheet to make interesting patterns.  As the piece cools, the different contraction rates of the metals will cause ridges and ripples to form on the surface creating a unique textured finish.

This technique is a very easy and interesting way to add a unique character to the metal you are going to use for your design and you can be sure that no-one will ever be able to repeat it exactly!

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One comment on “What is Reticulation?

  1. […] like to add some texture to the surface to provide a bit of interest.  I chose to have a go at reticulation, which produces a rippled effect on the surface of the […]

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