Silver Filled and Gold Filled Wire

Today I thought I would start the new year talking about silver filled wire and gold filled wire.  I want to let you know the difference between the types of wires and what to expect when you are looking at artisan jewelry.

It can be very confusing with all the different types of wires jewelry artists have available for use.  Let’s see there is gold plated, silver plated, copper plated, brass, bronze, red brass, gold, sterling, fine silver, gold filled, rolled gold, sterling silver filled, argentium silver, and a mired of different craft wires .  Whew, that’s a lot of  wire no wonder a few of my clients have glazed over eyes when I start talking about the wire I used to make the piece they are looking at.

Let’s start with plated and craft wires.  First and foremost plated wires have usually silver or gold kind of glued to the surface of another metal, usually copper.  This finish is not permanent and will wear off quickly.  You cannot clean plated wires like you would sterling or gold wires without rubbing the surface metal off and exposing the center wire.  This type of wire is rather inexpensive and should make the piece of jewelry you are looking at cheaper, but be aware that there are a great number of jewelry artists that use nothing but craft wire and plated wire and will charge you as though they used sterling or gold wire.  Always ask questions and if you can get a look at the end of one piece of wire check to see if you can see any other color, if you can you have craft wire or plated wire.  If in doubt and the artist isn’t seeming to answer your questions truthfully, pass it by.  Don’t get me wrong plated and craft wire definitely have their place in the jewelry world and if you are not going to wear the piece often or if it is a pendant that is not really in contact with your skin then it is the perfect type of wire to use and allows you as the customer the opportunity to get that artist’s talents at a reasonable price.

Moving on to sterling silver, argentium silver, fine silver, and gold.  Well what can be said about gold? Gold is gold, if it is white gold it have sterling added to it to make it white and in white gold wire you will notice that it is slightly yellow but not as golden as yellow gold.  Rose gold has copper added to the gold to make it pink.  You can also find green gold but I’m not sure what they added to the gold to make it green.  Fine silver is 99% silver and is used by silversmiths and fine jewelry artists for wire wrapping.  It is a very soft wire which makes it easy for the wire artist to manipulate the wire into amazing shapes.  Sterling silver is 92.5% silver with the balance being usually nickle or zinc.  If you allergic to sterling it probably isn’t the silver but the other metal that was added to make sterling silver.  This wire is widely used by jewelry makers and comes in a variety of shapes and gauges as well as tempers from dead soft to hard.  Argentium silver is the new sterling silver.  This silver is 93% pure silver and has argentium added to the silver.  This metal like sterling and gold is available in a variety of shapes and gauges as well as tempers. Argentium does not tarnish as quickly as sterling and gold, yes gold tarnishes, which allows the jewelry artist to have less cleaning and polishing when creating a piece.

Now the newest kid on the block for jewelry making is silver filled wire and sheets, but I want to tell you about gold filled first so you have the history and knowledge of how it is made.

Gold filled or rolled gold jewelry findings have been popular for years. Gold filled is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a base of less costly metal. This gold layer is many times thicker than a standard plating – anywhere from 50 to 100,000 times thicker. The law, gold filled items must be at least 1/20th gold by weight.  Gold filled wire is considered an heirloom wire, meaning you can pass it down from generation to generation without the gold layer wearing off. Of course you must use the proper care to help prevent the layer from wearing off by not using abrasives on your metal, which can also damage the stone in your piece of jewelry.

Silver filled jewelry findings are created the same way, but as of date, there are no industry standards for silver fill, which can make it hard to tell what you’re getting. Most silver filled wire or findings contain 1/10th sterling silver by weight. As with gold fill, the sterling silver layer is hundreds of times thicker than a silver plating.

Silver filled wire can be manipulated just like sterling silver wire. The silver is bonded to the core metal and does not flake off the way a plating might.  Silver filled items look identical to sterling silver, and can be antiqued just like sterling silver.  There are some people whose skin is so acidic that within a few days of wearing a silver plated piece of jewelry the plating will be gone and the base metal will be showing.  One company actually has some employees with this problem and when asked to “test” the silver filled earrings they had no problems and the finish was not flaked off.  The earrings wore exactly like sterling silver.  Below are two photos, the one on the right is a ring I made using argentium silver and the ring on the left is using silver filled.  I wore both of these rings for 3 months never removing them, not even when gardening!  Can you tell the difference?

20130111_100803 20130111_100744

If you use sterling silver in your jewelry or you purchase sterling silver jewelry, you have felt the pain of rising silver prices. Although the market always fluctuates up and down unpredictably, it feels like it has only gone UP lately.

Many jewelry designers have switched materials or use less sterling silver in their designs to compensate for the increased costs. However, the quality and look of sterling are popular for good reason that has given the rise of affordable new silver filled wire and jewelry findings available to jewelry makers.

It is up to each individual artist to decide what materials to use in his or her jewelry. Some people will always want pure sterling, no matter the cost.  Since silver filled jewelry findings cost 40-60% less than sterling silver findings, while offering the same look, I think it won’t be long until SF jewelry is as common commonly used as gold filled wire and findings. I have made that switch from argentium silver or sterling silver to silver filled in my wire.  Because my customers want the look of sterling or argentium silver but just won’t pay the price for it.  In order to continue to market my jewelry designs I switched completely to using gold filled and silver filled wire and I have carefully explained to my customers why I made that switch and what they should expect from the silver filled wire I am using.

I hope you have found this little blog worth your time and you have learned something.  If you are an artist and you are thinking about whether to switch to silver filled, try a test like I did and make something you can wear everyday for weeks on end and see what you think.

Happy wiring! Kris

Advertisements

2011 Fashion Wars

2011 Fashion Wars

Sorry I haven’t been posting much but I’ve been very busy.  This time of year is when I have the most shows and with November approaching my season is winding down.  Just 4 more shows and then I’m done for the year and then it’s time to start preparing for the shows to begin again starting in February.

Anyway what I’ve been busy with is my very first fashion show.  I signed up to do a fashion show in August but that one had to be canceled when the organizer lost most of her models to Fashion Week here in Omaha.  She contacted me and asked if I would like to be involved with the Fall Fashion Wars and I agreed.  Here’s what that involved.  I was the only jewelry designer allowed in the show, I recieved a 1/4 page ad, and I had a booth for people to look at my other pieces.

Leading up to the show I continued to have sales and up until Monday of last week I was making changes to my runway pieces simply because a piece would sell and I would have to replace it.  Then last week; just 6 days before the show the organizer told me I would need to have some sort of skit going on during my 15 minutes on the runway!  Panic time.  I posted on a bunch of forums and got some really good advice and ideas.  All that turned out to be for nothing.  Yep what the organizer did instead was have music blarring and didn’t say a darn thing.  The girls just walked out and across the stage and showed off my jewelry to the photographers and other guests.  Next time I will know not to do anything for the show and just let the models show off the pieces.

Anyway with my daughter helping the two of us worked out a plan.  She would put the pieces on the girls and I would take them off.  Yeah right, best laid plans.  The girls just walked up and stood waiting for someone to remove the jewelry and most of the time it ended up being my daughter doing all of it.  I had carefully numbered each piece and put them in order in my trays so they would be in line with the MC but then since she wasn’t reading or saying anything we just forgot about that and put pieces on as the girls came back without minding the order.  Oh well another lesson learned.

I plan to try to get involved with Fashion Week here in Omaha next year, I’ve missed the spring application deadline because I was busy with this show and others but I have the date the fall application will be availabled on all my calendars so I’ll be ready.  I hope I will be chosed to be involved in the fall shows.  They take place in several locations over an entire week. 

What I learned from this show.  If you are doing a fashion show for the first time choose a smaller one.  You can make your mistakes with a smaller group and nobody notices, except maybe the fashion writers in the audience.  Let the models do their thing without you directing them.  I didn’t choose the piece for the model they simply got whatever was the next piece to wear without any problem.  Make sure your models have removed all their own jewelry including rings, except wedding rings.  Be sure you arrange the jewelry for the best display, I had models trying to arrange pieces after I had put them on because they thought it was on wrong, the piece is an asymmetrical piece with a chain on one side and chips on the other side and then smooth round beads; this model moved the piece so the chain was in the center.  I caught it just before she went out. Always have a helper to put the jewelry on the models and take it off.  At this show there were only 10 models and I had 40 pieces for the runway.  It was a busy 15 minutes.  Make sure you get all your jewelry back including the earrings.  I was always reminding the girls to take off the earrings. Wear what you make, don’t forget that at the end of the models you will be walking out on the runway and be introduced, you don’t want to be without something you made around your neck.  Most of all have fun and be flexible, I was supposed to be second and the designer before me hadn’t shown up 5 minutes before the show began so I was moved up to the #1 slot.  Thankfully I was ready.  Be sure you have your jewelry in trays to make it easy for you.  I had my jewelry on hangtags so that the earrings and necklaces were all together, simply remove the set from the hangtag.  After each piece is brought back to you don’t worry about putting the pieces back on the hangtag, you have after the show to work on that.  As long as you put all the parts back into your trays you can put the sets back together when you aren’t so busy. One last thing have a small table where you are putting the jewelry on behind the scenes so you can lay out the pieces ready to put them on the models.

  • Do have media packets, I had them even though no media took one.
  • Do display pieces if you have a table for you media packets and business cards.
  • Do display your business sign.
  • Do have anyone helping you dress similar and wear your jewelry.
  • Do have someone taking photos of the models with your pieces on.
  • Do talk, talk, talk, to everyone that gets close to you.
  • Do tell everyone you know that you are doing this.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the organizer exactly what you expect and if possible how you want the models to walk the runway. In my case they could go around a fountain or along the front of the audience.  I chose in front of the audience.
  • Do have fun and relax, it turns out you are really in the hands of the models and if they know what they are having fun it’s all good.

%d bloggers like this: