Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Metal Choices for Jewelry, Part II

Most of my morning was spent in a jury pool in our district courtroom--waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Finally, after being told there were two criminal trials taking place this week, about 45 were selected for the jury pool for today's trial.  The remainder of us (only about 30) were instructed to return on Thursday, when a jury will be selected from among us for the second trial.  Hmmm--12 out of 45 versus 12 out of 30.  Looks like my chances of being selected have just gone up! Anyway, looks like a short trial and no jury sequestering!  So if I get picked, I'll gladly do my civic duty and serve.

Yesterday I started a blog on metals that are commonly used in jewelry making, beginning with silver, or white, colored metals.  I did omit one metal that is commonly used in less expensive jewelry, and that is silver plated metals, and a relative newcomer to the metal world, silver filled.

Silver plated metals are base metals that have a thin, almost microscopic silver coating on them that is usually applied electrically.  If the coating is actually silver, the item will match the color of sterling silver.  Cheaper costume jewelry may have white-plated metal, which is a grayer color.  Some metals are also coated with rhodium, which is a brighter, more silvery color.  The base metals that are commonly used in silver plated components are pewter (or pewter alloy), brass, and stainless steel.  Like sterling silver, silver plated metal will tarnish, and, because of the thin coating, will usually lose their silver color.

The advantage of silver plate over other silver metals is, of course, its cost.  However, do not expect most jewelry with silver plated components to retain its shiny, silvery appearance for a long period of time.  These jewelry pieces should be purchased with the understanding that they may not be lifetime pieces, especially if worn often.  This is not to say that all silver plated components are bad.  I have many beautiful pieces of jewelry with silver or gold plate that I have had for many, many years and they still look almost as good a new.  You can pick up a catalog of a famous Texas department store and find jewelry priced in the hundreds of dollars that uses silver (or gold) plated materials.  Not all plated metals are created equal, and some have more lasting power than others.  So don't shy away from buying jewelry just because of the silver plated materials.  Just be aware that it probably won't have the long life that sterling silver, white gold, and platinum have.  If you pay $10 for a necklace, chances are $10 worth of wear is what you'll get.

A relative newcomer has appeared on the jewelry scene in response to the rising costs of sterling silver and gold--silver filled.  Many of you will recognize the term "gold filled' which has been around for many years.  Silver filled metal is basically the same as gold filled, sterling silver that is bonded using heat and pressure to a base metal.  The layer of sterling silver is hundreds of times thicker than that used in plating and it does not flake off like silver plate.  Also, the appearance is identical to sterling silver, it can be bent and manipulated just like sterling silver, and it is just as long lasting as sterling silver.  As of right now, there is no industry standard for silver filled, but most reputable suppliers sell material that is 1/10th sterling silver by weight.

The chief advantage of silver filled over sterling silver metal is the cost--silver filled is 40-60% less than sterling silver.

I have been using some silver filled findings, beads, and wire over the past year and have to say I am very happy with the results.  Hopefully as more and more jewelry designers begin to make use of it, more will become available through the suppliers.

In the next post I will talk about the yellow, or gold, colored metals.  

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