Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sterling Silver Filled Wire - A Cheaper Alternative to Sterling Silver

By on Thursday, January 13, 2011 14 Comments

It was only a few months ago when those of us who work with silver did some collective screaming about the rapidly rising cost of this precious metal (see past post). Back then, silver was US$23 per ounce. It is now hovering around the $29 mark. There are fluctuations up and down which reflect market reactions to economic news but the general trend is still up.

Silver Price per oz from Jan 1 2010 to Jan 3 2011

Patrick Heller's article Nifty: Silver will be at $50  makes clear that strong investor demand is the main cause of this rise.  Basically, he cites the reasons why he thinks the demand for for physical silver (as opposed to paper trading), which is in short supply, will stay strong. He is not the only one who predicts that but the average forecast for the 2011 cost of silver is in the $39 per oz range. Ouch.

In my past post, I suggested some alternatives to silver. Some of the recent chatter on Etsy forums though is about yet another type of wire I had not come across before - sterling silver filled wire.  Like gold-filled wire, it promises to be an excellent cost effective compromise. The bonding process to coat the copper wire core with sterling silver is also more durable than silver plating. The thicker coating means it contains more silver than silver plate and thus has a higher perceived value.

The 0.925/40 designation for sterling silver filled wire means it is 1/40th sterling silver. The name "sterling silver filled wire" does not imply it is solid sterling silver but refers to the type of silver used to coat the core. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper hence the 0.925 designation.   It's like what you see for gold filled wire - 10/20, 12/20 and 14/20. Gold filled has to be 1/20th by weight to qualify as gold filled. The numbers 10,12 and 14 refer to the karat value.

According to catdancingranch on Artfire who sells this German made wire,  it can be lightly hammered and sanded. She personally uses Tool Magic on her tools as well as a nylon hammer for work hardening. Some artisans say it can be soldered and tumbled too. Be aware the copper core will show at the cut ends. If you oxidize jewelry, then the resulting dark patina will mask the core.

Just last night, I received Fire Mountain Gem's email newsletter announcing their new line of sterling silver filled wire and findings. They confirm it can be hammered and soldered. I am sure more and more sources will turn up in the future if silver prices continue to go up as predicted.

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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14 comments:

  1. Years ago I took a wire working class taught by Mark Lareau, who's wire work book "All Wired Up" has become one of my jewelry making bibles. Mark taught his classes using silver filled wire and he even made many of his own price-point jewelry with it. After taking his class I began using sterling silver wire and had forgotten all about silver filled. Your article is a great reminder that silver filled is available and a beautiful, more affordable alternative to solid sterling.

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  2. Never heard of silver filled wire before, but will take a look! Will check to see if they make silver filled sheet as well?

    Thank you for bringing it to our attention Pearl!
    Cheers

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  3. I love the thought of this, but working with /40 isn't too great for me. Hammering displaces the silver even with rawhide or nylon hammer and braising/soldering melts the silver into the copper core and you end up with a light coloured copper with the silver blended into it. Just my experiences with /40. Using it for wire work without actual metalsmithing makes this wire a perfect inexpensive substitute though.

    If anyone knows where I can get the better "grade" silver filled in /10 and /20 vs the well-known /40 - please let me know.

    Great article Pearl.

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  4. I mentioned this on another blog and most jewellers hadn't heard of it. It is really hard to find the /10 and /20, but the /40 is everywhere. I'm not too keen on the /40 since you cannot hammer it like the others without the copper or brass core showing through. Some may like this look though. I'm searching everywhere for the /10 /20 without luck. Do you know where?

    (via Facebook)

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  5. Alas no. Suppliers are only just starting to respond to the need. Perhaps with time, the other options will be there.

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  6. I have used the /40 from catdancingranch. It was nice but you do have to be careful. Of course having some copper peak through can be a desired effect. I am happy to see that FMG has the /20 as I had not been able to find it until now. Can't wait to order some.

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  7. I just want to say this is a nice, and really helpful article. I found it when looking up Sterling-Filled wire to see if I could get more info or sources other than Fire Mountain Gems. Then I wanted to let "WildGift" know that Fire Mountain Gems states that theirs is /20, however it does have an anti-tarnish layer. This can usually be removed fairly easily with a dip in acetone, or if all else fails a quick run under the torch. Hope this helps a little. I will still be looking for myself other suppliers for a "high grade" silver-filled. I will bookmark this post, in case I find anything!
    Shae :)

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  8. I have used 20g half hard filled from fire mountain gems and found that using it in a wrapping worked pretty good. 20g hard peels when used in wrapping. But have also found new supplier with better prices and carries it in 10 and 20.
    Rio Grande. They also carry componants in filled sterling silver wire.

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  9. Thanks so much for your tips! I will definitely check out Rio Grande.

    I find half hard and soft to be the most useful tempers so I don't usually buy the hard.

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  10. Wonderful article. Silver filled wire is an awesome way to give quality and good prices to our customers.

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  11. I have made the switch. It's a good compromise for a designer and budget conscious consumers.

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  12. We do the better quality /10 Pearl..don't want to plug without permission but thought it might be useful to your Canadian readers:)We do findings, wire and chain.

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  13. Good to know Hollie. This post is old now so it's great better quality sterling silver filled materials are now available.

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