Introduced in 1959, the Argenta model is a large-bore trumpet made of solid nickel silver, available with and without the first-valve tuning trigger. The Argenta model was discontinued c.1973 and its place in the Reynolds catalog was taken by the nickel-plated Onyx trumpet.
The Argenta line of horns were some of very few band instruments, other than French horns, made completely of solid nickel silver. According to Reynolds’ trademark application, the name “Argenta” was taken from the Spanish word for “silver” even though, despite its close appearance, there is no actual silver in nickel silver. Nickel silver, also known as German silver or neusilber, is an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel. A representative alloy mix contains 65% copper, 17% zinc and 18% nickel (compared to 80% copper and 20% zinc for standard yellow brass). Nickel silver has similar characteristics to brass, but is harder and stiffer, making it a durable alternative often used on high-wear areas of a horn, including valve casings, hand grips, tuning slides and trim.
Instruments made of solid nickel silver tend to have a darker, clearer tone compared to standard brass alloys. Nickel silver emphasizes the lower and higher overtone series, resulting in a sound that resonates very clearly in the corresponding registers. Nickel silver horns also tend to project more dramatically than other brass alloys and can easily throw an ensemble section out of balance without care; they are often used where a homogeneous section balance isn’t emphasized, e.g. as a soloist instrument or in a small mixed-instrument horn line. That said, many have found satisfaction using Argenta instruments within big band groups and other similar settings.
At least one sample of a “new old stock” (NOS) Argenta bell from the mid-1970s appears to be made of yellow brass and not nickel silver. It is possible that the later models were nickel-plated brass rather than solid nickel silver, as with the Onyx models that replaced the Argenta in the catalog, but it’s unknown when the metal composition might have changed or if this was just a manufacturing sample and not representative of the actual product line.
1959 Roth-Reynolds catalog:
Made of solid nickel silver. Designed by artists. Beautifully engraved. Exquisitely finished. Fast, dependable valve action. Remarkable, brilliant, penetrating tone quality, yet extremely full and rich. Try it — you will be amazed and convinced. Built in large bore only. Furnished with striking modern Gladstone case.
1966 Reynolds catalog:
An open-blowing instrument of solid nickel-silver for that rich, dark tone that many American artists prefer to the usual brass brilliance. Short valve action affords quick response. Available without first-valve trigger (TU-29) at lower cost.
1970 Reynolds catalog:
The Argenta Trumpet has the same distinctive characteristics as that of the Contempora, except that it is solid nickel-silver. This feature provides the trumpet player with a ‘dark’ tone, rather than the usual sound of brass brilliance. Fast-action valve pistons offer quick response. Available without first-valve trigger (TU-29) at lower cost.