One of my absolutely favorite materials to work with is reticulated silver. This silver alloy is 80% fine silver and 20% copper, which gives it some unique properties. First, through a process called depletion gilding, you can create a layer of silver on the top and bottom with the reticulated silver in the center. When you heat it up, it acts much like an ice cream sandwich--the middle melts before the top or bottom does and the surface of the metal draws up into a completely unique and very natural crinkled texture that can be used to make jewelry.
Depletion gilding, which is the key to this process, actually takes quite a while. For each piece you want to reticulate, you have to use a torch to heat it completely to the annealing point. Then, you put it in an acidic bath (usually called pickel) for several minutes, which pulls the extra copper molecules on the surface loose, leaving only pure silver behind. Then, you remove it from the pickle and scrub it with a brass bristle brush (try saying that 3 times fast!), front and back, to create a solid surface.
This process is repeated, over and over, until you build up a good layer of fine silver to make your "ice cream sandwich." At that point, a large torch and a torch with a fine, direct flame are used at the same time to bring the entire piece up to melting temperature so that the reticulation process can take place. To find out more about the depletion process, check out this post on Rio Grande's blog.
Many different metals can be reticulated, including brass, gold, and silver. This particular reticulated silver pendant was created for a recent custom order and is set with a rainbow moonstone.