A word about metals . . .

These days, precious metals are costly, but there are some very beautiful alternatives:

  • Silver-filled and Gold-filled
  • Silver-plated and Gold-plated
  • Jewelers Brass (looks like gold)
  • Copper
  • Bronze
  • Non-tarnish base metal (usually available in 4 finishes: antique silver, brass, gold, and gun metal)

I prefer to work in sterling silver or pure silver and gold-filled, but anything that fits your budget and pleases your eye will do. Even if you plan to work in the costlier metals, it’s not a bad idea to start out with base metals until you learn the tricks and techniques.

What is the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled (and silver-plated and silver-filled)? Plated metals are not nearly as durable as filled. For example, a GOLD-PLATED piece is easily damaged, as it has only a thin layer of gold bonded to a core of brass. There is no U.S.  law as to how thick the plating must be. A GOLD-FILLED piece, on the other hand, has many more times the amount of gold and is considered a lifetime piece of jewelry.   The gold must be at least 10K, and the quantity of gold must be at least 1/20th by weight of the total product. When buying gold-filled, look for the the designations 14/20, 12/20 or 10/20. The first number refers to the karat weight (e.g. 14K), and the second number refers to the 1/20th rule.  There is 100 times more gold in 14K Gold filled than in gold plate.

The same drawbacks of gold-plating apply to SILVER-PLATING. A recent new entry in the metals market is SILVER-FILLED. To date, there is no legal standard for the amount of silver in silver-filled, so check with the supplier to see what quantity of silver by weight they use in the pieces that they carry.

A word about beads and non-metal components . . .

Beads and components run the gamut from precious gemstone to cheap plastic. As you gain jewelry making skills, you’ll likely find yourself leaning toward higher end materials. Gemstones are much sought after for discerning buyers, but Swarovski crystal is also a very popular mid-cost material and is widely available.  Today, lucite and acrylic have gained wide acceptance as lightweight, attractive, and relatively inexpensive alternatives. My designs often include Czech glass beads, as the durability and huge variety are a great aid to jewelry design. Lampworked beads, beads created by hand on a small torch, are also beautiful alternatives for those who love artisan creations, but they, too, can be very expensive.

Whatever materials you are buying, compare prices carefully. You can often save by buying in quantity. I also make a practice of first visiting the sale, clearance, closeout, or overstock pages of supply websites.


2 comments on “Materials

  • There are some great tips here! I am happy to learn more about the silver filled and gold filled wires. It’s hard knowing what to look for to give your pieces just the right look. I try for very well made jewelry that has been made with quality materials. I am not brave enough just yet to go all teh way though. I hope to gain more experience before I go off into 100% precious metals and I love the variety of all the different kinds of beads so I think I will always just work with whatever catches my fancy there, now I know to look around more for quantity to save on price.
    Thanks for the wonderful info!

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