We all love working in sterling silver, don’t we? The bright, white silver finish, the classy look, the ease of soldering and the option of oxdizing. But the price can be a reality check! The higher, volatile price of Sterling Silver has caused many customers and myself to seek out alternatives. Here I will outline SEVEN!
1 – Non Tarnish Silver Plate
This is a wonderful pick for pieces that will get light-to-medium wear such as earrings or necklaces. It is non tarnishing and easy to work with due to the copper base. It has a slightly warm tone, so is not a perfect match, but is one of the least expensive options.
2 – Half Hard Fine Silver with a Copper Core
This Fine Silver Wire is a great substitute for sterling silver wire. Why? It has a thicker silver plating, several times thicker than “German Style” wire or any other plated wire so it will resist scratching, there is no coating to slough off and the fine silver will remain intact much longer. It has a cool, white-silver color which matches sterling silver. Fine silver copper core will tarnish eventually, but because the surface is fine silver, it will stay bright and shiny much longer….perhaps a year or more depending on conditions. You can solder, hammer and add texture to this wire. It just takes bit of practice so the copper doesn’t show through.
3 – Silver Filled
This alternative meets the same legal requirement of “gold filled” as it is 10% sterling silver which is bonded to a white brass core…this is 30x’s thicker than any silver plate. It is half hard and will work harden, tarnish, oxidize, and polish just like sterling silver. Silver filled can also be hammered, soldered and textured. It also has the identical look and feel of sterling silver and the white brass core is barely noticeable when you look at an open ring, and not noticeable at all when properly closed…and “heals” to a good degree when cut with cutters.
4 – Stainless Steel
This is perfect for heavy duty projects. It is tarnish free, corrosion free and will last forever! I tumble my jump rings and clasps that I make with this wire, for 4 hours in mixed steel shot and it comes out with a beautiful mirror finish. Stainless steel does have a cooler, more gray tone than sterling silver does, but it does almost looks like antique silver!
5 – Titanium
Titanium is a great, lightweight option with a soft grey-silver tone. I rate this alternative 1/4 hard in temper. As you see pictured here, it has an even medium grey tone and a matte finish, but this will tumble to a high shine and will work harden nicely. Titanium is an inert metal and therefor hypoallergenic; recommended even for the most sensitive skin! The TITANIUM I use is Custom drawn Commercially Pure Grade #1 Titanium specially acid cleaned for jewelry applications. (ASTM-F67 rating which is: Standard Specification for Unalloyed Titanium, for Surgical Implant Applications (UNS R50250, UNS R50400, UNS R50550, UNS R50700)
6 – Niobium
My daughter loves to work in niobium! It starts out with a warm grey-silver tone and tumbles to a high shine, but it can also be anodized to a brilliant range of colors! Niobium(Nb) is named after Niobe, daughter of Tantalus. Ore reserves are found in Canada, Brazil, Nigeria, Zaire and Russia. Nb is used in pure and alloyed form in superconductors, sodium vapor lamps(street lights), rocket boosters and JEWERLY! It is hypoallergenic and perfect for those with metal sensitivities who want to add a little extra color to their pieces.
7 – Half Hard Aluminum
This aluminum wire is the same wire that I use to make my high quality jewelry findings. It is durable and perfect for wire wrapping, making clasps and jump rings. It has a mill finish and is ready for creating! This tumbles to a bright light grey silver finish. Aluminum cannot be soldered or oxidized, but it will not tarnish! It is very lightweight and is wonderful for large, sculptural pieces.
And there you go! Check out my sampler listing that has a little of ALL of these materials, so you can test them out side by side!