A bit about silver filled wire

As I'm sure all of you know, the price of precious metals has sky rocketed this year. This not only makes it difficult for the small business jewelry designer, but also the customer as well. So, in looking for a alternative to sterling silver, I've been experimenting with other metals. Stainless steel wire is too "hard" of a metal to manipulate and work with. It is good to use as in a finished chain or finished ear wires.
The newest metal to come from distributors is silver filled. I took the plunge and bought some in 16 gauge to experiment with. It is just half the cost of sterling silver, and claims to be 100 times thicker/stronger than silver plate, which would mean a piece of jewelry would hold up and last much, much longer and continue to look good and be wearable.
Here's my results.




I found it to be true to what has been published about it. Looks the same as sterling, has the same feel and reacts the same. Dead soft wire performs well. You can hammer it, texture it, file it, oxidize it, tumble it-I could not even see the base metal when cutting it! The only thing I have not done is try to flux it and solder. So I'm not sure how well it melts, but I did buy a piece of silver filled sheet that I will be experimenting with as well.
As you can see from my photos,, you can bend and twist it. My own handmade chain links turned out beautifully, with a wonderful shine after tumble polishing. The only slight difference I found is, it just may work harden, a slightly, very slightly bit faster than sterling. But I say again, an only slight difference. You may not even notice it.
Here is a download from Rio Grande defining the specifics:
http://media1.riogrande.com/Content/Technical-Bulletin-Silver-Filled-Fabrication-Metals-IS.pdf
Here is also a blog post from Beaducation discussing the use of silver filled wire.
http://blog.beaducation.com/2011/08/colin-mahler-tells-us-about-silver.html
They say if you can wear sterling with no problems, that you can wear silver filled as well. I read this somewhere over at Beaducation, but just can find the link to it.

Now of course I must state that this does not take the place of sterling silver; as sterling will remain to be a highly prized precious metal. But, just to offer the customer something a little more affordable, this could be the alternative that you may be looking for. Have fun exploring new possibilities!

NOTE: This is my own personal opinion; I am not affiliated with Beaducation or Rio Grande, although these are two great sources for the jewelry maker.
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Comments

Carassia said…
Thank you so much for this profound review - you offer exactly the answers I have been looking for, and now I will definitely give "silver filled" a try. I was a bit afraid of the brass core (cause brass is a birch when it comes to work hardening), but your description encourages me!
Jutta
Your new necklace looks great! I can see the silver filled wire doing better at shows where people may not want to spend the money for sterling. I think this will be a great addition to your collection!
Your necklace is beautiful! I'm not a jewelry maker myself, but I think it would be a good idea to be able to offer different price ranges.
Linda Pruitt said…
Thanks so much for considering the buyer in this tough economy.

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