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?

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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

Hot Days of Summer

This summer I decided to take the plunge into learning how to do two things. First because I have so many seed beads I decided to start doing some bead weaving. I first learned how to make a Russian Spiral Rope. The lesson was to do a bracelet but since I just haven’t found that bracelets sell very well I made it into a necklace. It was challenging to get the spiral started but once I got it started it was a breeze and so simple to tote around a couple of tubes of seed beads, silk thread, wire cutters and a needle. I could do it while I was watching tv or sitting in bed in the evening. Super simple to work with and a big change from wire work that requires pliers, cutters, gemstones, and maybe a bunch of other stuff. So here is the picture of what I made. The earrings are the same seed beads on silk thread that I sewed onto a silver tone sieve and glued to sterling silver posts.

 

My next try at bead weaving was the right angle weave with two needles.  I made a ton of beaded beads and put them into a bunch of different necklace designs and a few pairs of earrings.  Check out KL Jewelry Design to see all of them.  Oh I made some stretchy rings that I sell in my booths at arts and crafts shows for only $1.  The stretchy rings are listed online because they are so inexpensive it would actually cost me to list them so check out my booths around the Omaha and Lincoln, NE, Council Bluffs, Atlantic, and Clarinda, IA, or Sioux Falls, SD to see all the rings, and I have a bunch.

Now the next bead weaving experiment was to learn how to do a spiral rope.  So again it was for a bracelet but I made it into a necklace.  That’s easy peasy to do because you just keep on going until you get the length you want.  So the spiral rope necklace has multi-color metallic seed beads, Peridot seed beads that are line in silver, and clear seed beads.  This was a lot easier to make.  Maybe that was because I already knew how to do the Russian spiral but I picked it up in no time.  I used three different sizes of seed beads so it has texture with the Peridot color being the focal of the necklace.

 

Well that’s all I’ve gotten done on learning bead weaving but I’ll be making a bunch more this winter when the shows are over for the season.

After working with the seed beads and silk thread I  decided to try my hand at making wire rings.  I know, I already do that but I have never made rings with faceted gemstones in prong settings.  I bought a parcel of mixed sizes of faceted gemstones; I looked over two different tutorials and while both of the teachers got the design from a ring that was created in the 40’s they each took a different way of teaching.  I made one ring following each teacher’s instructions and then tweaked it to work best for me.  By the end I found it really easy to make and get the stones to be secure and not wiggle around at all.  I have all these rings listed at KL Jewelry Design to see them all.

 

So now you know what I’ve been doing this summer to avoid being outside in the heat and humidity that is so famous in Nebraska.  Tell me what you think of my latest adventures in jewelry making.

Oh, in my spare time I’ve been being trained by our new German Shorthaired Pointer, Hank.  Unfortunately our male, Chance began limping on his front leg and after a number of trips to the vet, x-rays, a trip to a specialist and more x-rays, we found out it was bone cancer and had to have him put to sleep.  We knew we would get another dog for our female pointer, Pepper, so we contacted the Central Plains German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue and adopted Hank.  Chance and Pepper came from the Rocky Mountain German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue so it was an easy choice.  Anyway, Hank was born on February 13, 2011 to a litter of 14.  Yikes, the breeder ended up with 7 of them left and Hank spent the first 6 months of his life on the end of a chain.  He was adopted by a family that ended up having to move and couldn’t take him so he was returned.  Then he was adopted and the lady couldn’t deal with his anxiety so he was returned.  I guess the third time is a charm because he is in his forever home.  He is a handful and gets me up around 5am every single day but he’s so happy and so is Pepper that I put up with it and just deal with it every day.  He does have to be in the kennel when I leave the house because he does have anxiety when I leave but other than the battle to keep Pepper out of the kennel while I’m trying to get Hank in the kennel we don’t have any problems with him.  I’ll tell you more as the summer goes on.

Thanks for reading and following my blog and have a great summer.

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.

KL Jewelry Design’s Jewel School Contest Entry

Please visit JTV  to vote on my entry in the Jewel School Contest.  This is a photo of the piece I entered.  Thanks.

 

Swirling Galaxy Ring

I was watching JTV this last Sunday and one of my favorite jewelry artists was on, Dale “Cougar” Armstrong.  She was showing off a new ring design she had created using square wire and some crystals.  I always love seeing what Dale comes up with and figuring out something a bit different to make it my own design.  So here goes another free tutorial for you as one of my blog readers or Facebook fan.

Swirling Galaxy Ring
Created by Kris Penney, Designer/Owner
KL Jewelry Design
Materials
6-6mm or smaller beads
3 pieces of 21 gauge square wire of your choice each piece 41/2″ long
1″ 20 gauge half round wire of your choice
 
Tools
Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Flush cutters
Emery file
Ring mandrel
Rawhide or nylon hammer
Polishing cloth
Masking Tape
Fine tip marker
 
Step 1
Cut 3 pieces of 21 gauge square wire to 41/2″ in length.  Using the polishing cloth clean and straighten each piece.
 
Step 2
Tape the ends of the bundle of wires together and mark the center of the wire. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 3
With the 20 gauge half round wire and your flat nose pliers make a hook on one end.  The end of your hook should be at a slight angle so you have something to hold onto while you are wrapping the bundle wires. 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 4
With your non-dominate thumb hold the wrap wire just to one side of the mark on the bundle wires and with your dominate hand wrap the wire around the side of the bundle wires.  With your flat nose pliers press the wrap wire into place. 
 
 
 
 
Step 5
Continue doing this until you have three complete wraps on the outside of the bundle wires.  Be sure to start and end your wraps on the same side of the bundle wires, this is the inside of your bundle wires. 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 6
Trim the wires so they don’t hang out over the edges of your bundle wires and using your flat nose pliers press them into place.  Run your finger over the top to be sure there are no rough spots.  If there are edges you snag your finger on use an emery board to file the edges and smooth them down.
 
 
 
 
Step 7
Place the center of your bundle wires on the ring mandrel 1/2 size smaller than your final ring size.  with the ring mandrel pressing against your table edge (I do this by putting the largest end of my mandrel against my stomach and the tip against the table and pushing into the table this holds the mandrel in place leaving my hands free to form the ring. 
 
 
 
Step 8
Holding onto the wires push or pull them around the ring mandrel 1/2 size smaller than your finished size so if you want a size 8 ring place your wires at 71/2 on the mandrel.  Continue shaping the wires around the mandrel until they meet at the center. 
 
 
 
 
Step 9
Start your swirl by moving both ends of your bundles tightly around each other. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 10
Continue with the swirl until you have gone all the way round and your wires are now all the way around the swirl.  Remove the tape.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 11
Fan the ends out as you see in the photo.  Try to get them as evenly spaced as you can going around the center swirl.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 12
Slip one of your beads onto any of the wires.  I am using 6 mm beads but in the photo with the red beads I used the largest size of seed beads (E bead) and got a much tighter swirl for those that don’t like “big” rings.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 13
At the very tip of your round nose pliers form a simple loop in the end of the wire.
 
 
 
 
 
 
This wire is just a little bit too long so trim the wire until you have 1/4″ sticking out past the bead.  Now form another loop.  Continue doing this until you get all your beads on and the wires looped.  Sometimes you will have a wire that is short but if you life the wire up from the center swirl you can slip your bead further down your wire and form the loop.  You want the beads as close to the center swirl as you can get them.
 
 
 
Step 14
Slip your ring back on your mandrel and if you need to use the rawhide of nylon hammer to gently tap the ring to shape it and get it to your finished size.  Your ring should have sprung out to the size you wanted after you did the first swirl.  I started at size 71/2 and ended at a size 8.
 
 
 
 
Now you can enjoy your finished ring.  When I have the ring done I put it on and gently press the swirls to smooth them out on my finger to get the ring to fit how I want.  When I am selling these I skip shaping the ring to my finger but be sure to let your customers know to do this.
 
Here are three samples of my Swirling Galaxy Ring

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