“You are one of the first people in the world to work in this metal … Argentium.”
–Ronda Coryell’s first statement to her Argentium classes.
When talking about influencers in the world of jewelry design, Ronda Coryell is among an elite group. An award-winning designer, a renowned educator and one of the industry’s foremost experts on Argentium, she literally travels the world promoting the use of Argentium in jewelry and teaching workshops on its use.
Argentium is a silver alloy created by Peter Johns and his team of researchers at Middlesex University in England. In 1990 Peter started experimenting with creating a silver alloy that would not easily tarnish. By replacing some of the copper in traditional sterling silver with germanium, he was able to achieve this and much more, including a brighter finish, firescale resistance, and welding and fusing properties. Ronda was one of the first people to not only embrace the alloy but also to take it to new metalsmithing heights.
Ronda’s involvement with Argentium started eight years ago, when Cynthia Eid introduced her to the metal at Rio Grande’s Catalog in Motion event. Gail Philippi, head of education at Rio Grande, asked Ronda to lecture at the following year’s event, and Ronda suggested that she would like to talk about this new metal. The only problem was, at the time, she had never tried working with it. When she finally sat down and started playing with Argentium, she discovered, much to her delight, that it surpassed her expectations. Ronda is a trained goldsmith who has never worked in silver, and so she approached Argentium as she would gold.
“It works like gold, not like silver,” she says. “It hammers like gold. It is malleable. I have done anticlastic raising with it. And now I am adding gold dust and gold to the surface and it is wonderful.”
Ronda was among the first metalsmiths to discover the metal’s unique fusing properties. She developed a close friendship with Peter Johns after sending him her video series on working with Argentium. He called her the next day and said he didn’t realize the metal would fuse the way it did. People had been telling him for 20 years that Argentium was rubbish and yet, here was an American doing amazing things with it.
Ronda created the Argentium Instructor Certification Program to help others learn how to work with the innovative alloy and spread its popularity in the industry. The program, which is a part of her business, Jewelry Studies International, is endorsed by Argentium International and the Argentium Guild. She also produced a video series on working with the metal. Her enthusiasm for the alloy extends beyond its working properties.
“It is a responsible metal,” she says. “It is not mined, so we are able to certify where every bit of the metal has come from. I love this metal.”
Ronda’s ground-breaking work with Argentium isn’t surprising when you take the rest of her career into consideration. She has always been a lady on the move. She received a degree in art education from Miami University and one in metals from Ohio State University. After college, she quit working in metal altogether and began a career as a stained glass artist. At 40 years old, she moved to Florida, where she saw an ad in a paper for a job as a jewelry model maker. She applied, got the job and began working with seven jewelers who generously taught her everything they knew about being a metalsmith. From there she opened a jewelry store in Tallahassee, which she ran for the next seven years.
When the store in Florida closed, being the intrepid adventurer she is, she packed up a U-Haul and headed for California, where she ended up at the Revere Academy. After 11 years at Revere, she moved to Austin, where she opened Jewelry Studies International, which merged with and eventually became part of Creative Side Jewelry Academy in 2013. Two years ago, she threw caution to the wind once again and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives. Today Ronda is living her dream. She travels all over the world teaching and promoting Argentium. Last year alone she conducted 26 workshops in every corner of the globe, and she has no plans to slow down.
And what does this remarkably energetic woman do in her down time? She certainly doesn’t slow down. She takes pottery class just to get out of the studio, scuba dives and skis. And she feels she is finally at home in New Mexico. This master is definitely living her dream—teaching, traveling and discovering all sorts of wonderful and exciting new properties in Argentium. The name Ronda Coryell will always be synonymous with Argentium.
Want to know more about Ronda? She shares a little more about her career in Rio Grande’s For the Love of Jewelers video series.