One of the most confusing things about silver wire is that silver is both a METAL and a COLOR. There are many types of wire that are silver in color, although they have no trace of the metal silver in them.
Let me explain. We offer several types of “silver” wire. This first set is the metals that actually have silver in them, and their less expensive alternatives.
- 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.
- Premium 1/2 Hard Non-Tarnish Silver Plate
- This is a little harder and more springy than the normal Non-Tarnish Silver Plate, but otherwise it has the same characteristics.
- Nickle Silver
- Nickel Silver Wire is a traditional alternative to sterling silver…..and probably one of the most misunderstood metals! Nickle Silver does not contain any silver, but yes, does contain nickel. The exact chemical composition is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Some segment of the population WILL have a reaction to it called Contact Dermatitis. I can’t find any reliable figures, but the most common problem is with pierced earrings. Nickel Silver has a bright silver tone, it resists tarnishing and is both strong and durable….oh yes, it is inexpensive!
- Fine Silver with 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.
- Silver Filled
- Silver Filled wire 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 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.
- Sterling Silver
- Sterling Silver is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. It can be soldered, hammered, and textured with no fear of exposing an inner metal. It is a cool white-silver color and is used as the standard in the jewelry world.
- Argentium Sterling Silver
- Argentium has all the benefits of Sterling Silver, plus some tricks of it’s own. Argentium differs from normal Sterling because of the small amount of Germanium smelted into it. That difference makes it much nicer to work with. Soldering is only one of the things that’s easier with Argentium than with plain Sterling Silver.
These other metals are ones that are silver in color but don’t contain any actual silver, or pretend to be Sterling Silver. They can be substituted in for Sterling, but they each have a firm base of their own merits to stand on.
- Aluminum is durable and perfect for wire wrapping, making clasps and jump rings. It has a mill finish and is ready for creating! Aluminum tumbles to a bright light grey silver finish and it will not tarnish! Aluminum can be anodized. It is very lightweight and is wonderful for large, sculptural pieces.
- 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!
- 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)
- 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.
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!