The price of silver is crazy right now, so what’s a wire-wrapping jewelry artist to do? A lot of artisans are exploring alternate materials so that they can continue to explore creatively *and* create jewelry that is still in an affordable price range for their customers. That’s one reason that copper jewelry has become so popular. It’s an affordable material choice, and can be utilized in many of the same jewelry designs as sterling silver wire. I happen to love working with copper: I can torch it, etch it, hammer and twist it to my heart’s content. I adore the lovely warm tones that are created with an added patina, and a simple quick rub with a dry jewelry cloth keeps it looking fantastic. However, since this is supposed to be about silver I’ll get back on track now. 🙂
In addition to copper, I create my jewelry designs using sterling silver (solid) – and I’m now adding a line made with silver-filled wire. For the jewelry artist, there are a few limitations to what an be done with the silver-filled wire. I can wrap, hammer, and patina silver-filled wire just like sterling, but I can’t take my torch to it to create the balled ends I use in many designs. However, what I’d like to really get at here is what the differences mean to the customer – to the actual wear-ability of the pieces created with silver-filled wire.
As a point of reference, think of the Gold-filled jewelry that’s been popular for ages; when solid gold is is out of our price range, gold filled is a perfect substitute. Like gold-filled, silver-filled consists of precious metal bonded onto a base-metal core (red brass). It’s made in two qualities: 1/5 and 1/10. The silver-filled wire I use (from Rio Grande) is 1/10 – meaning that it is 10% sterling silver by weight. This is definitely NOT the same as silver plating! The layer of sterling silver is hundreds of times thicker and more durable, so it will never chip, flake, or wear off.
So what does this mean to you, the customer? Silver-filled wire creations are just as lovely and durable. Jewelry care is exactly the same as for my solid sterling silver designs. If you are allergic to silver plate, but can wear sterling silver, you should have no problem at all with silver-filled.
Basically, it’s a fantastic alternative for many of my designs that do not require torch work, and a way to provide my customers with a more affordable option for quality handmade jewelry. Win-win. 🙂