Roberta Weisenburg became a Certified Argentium Instructor in 2012 and currently teaches at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao, Hawaii. After establishing the Argentium Silver Network Page, this Facebook Group has impressively grown to over 3500 members.
Here is part 1 of Roberta's interview...
When did you know you wanted to become a jeweler?
I think the first moment I knew I wanted to be a jeweler was when I was about 9 years old. I went to camp and remember making a necklace and truly knew then I wanted to make jewelry. But later when I was out of high school, probably about 20 years old, was when I started thinking of learning more about techniques.
What attracted you to making jewelry and silverware?
When I was about 21yrs old I took a job as an apprentice to a goldsmith. They had a retail store and 26 accounts in three states to do repairs and custom design. I ran the wax department and was responsible for model making, casting, refining and mold making. I did not learn fabrication until after I left that job. I moved to San Francisco in the fall of 1984 and shortly thereafter set up my home studio and continued my education at a local city college - there, I learned soldering and fabrication. I continued my education through Bay Area Metal Arts Guild workshops, the Revere Academy and the Gemological Institute of America.
How did you first discover Argentium?
I first heard of Argentium most likely through the Rio Grande catalog. Either that, or just by talking amongst jeweler friends.
Did you know much about the material before taking Ronda’s course?
In the early 2000’s, my studio in San Francisco was in the same building as the Revere Academy where Ronda Coryell was working. It was about 2011 when Ronda encouraged me to purchase some Argentium and learn how to use it. She was getting ready to move to Texas and told me she would be eventually certifying people to teach Argentium techniques. I took her advice and traded in a bunch of old scrap Sterling silver and purchased a variety of Argentium sheet and wire to experiment with. I already knew how to fuse high karat gold, as I had been doing gold granulation since 1998. No one was actively teaching Argentium, so I spent the next year attempting to figure it out. I was making a couple of key mistakes, mainly using the wrong flux. Eventually, I purchased Ronda Coryell’s video set and that helped a lot.
What is your favorite attribute of this great metal?
How much time do you have?! (laughing). As my students will attest, I LOVE Argentium. I could talk all day about its magical properties.
If I had to choose one, I would say its ability to fuse - not only to itself, but to multiple metals. I will be the first one to raise my hand and tell the world that I do not like to solder. I am a big fanatic for fusing. After I mastered fusing with Argentium, I fell in love with fabrication again. The ability to fuse mixed metals is a dream come true.
Images: Sea Urchin Box (Argentium, 18K Gold, Pearl, Sterling) / Argentium Butterfly Pendant (Petrified Burnt Sequoia Wood, Moonstone) / Morganite Ring (Argentium, 18K Gold granulation) / Fern Cuff (Argentium, 14K Gold, Rainbow Moonstones)