Monday, November 14, 2011

Silver Filled in Jewelry Making

I decided several months ago to try a fairly new product, silver filled.  It is made in basically the same way that gold filled is made and should last indefinitely.  As we all know, plated metal materials not only often look differently, they are not meant to last.  I work too hard on my metal jewelry to use a material that is not going to last and yet, sterling had gotten to a price point that was beyond me, and most important, beyond what my clients were willing to pay.

As you can see, when I use metals - it is allot. The first bracelet uses quite a bit of 24 g wire and there is a huge difference between SF at $0.22 per foot and sterling at almost a dollar a foot.  I have about 20 feet of 24g wire in the first bracelet which translate to $4.40 as opposed to $20.00. For the final pricing, i.e. retail, that can mean the difference in the price of the bracelet of $17.00 or $80.00.  There is even a big difference in the 16 g that I use as the frame.  I have about 18 inches that I use - SF is priced at about $3.00, whereas, sterling would be about $9.00. If you double your price of materials for a wholesale price and then double again for retail, these get to be really big numbers.  In SF, I have $7.40 in materials, but in sterling, I would have $29.00.  I would love to be making these in sterling, but they are very time consuming and the final price would have to reflect that and it would put them out of the ball park. The second bracelet is the same as the first except that I use thicker wire for the decorative part. I don't use much more than 10 feet, but SF for 20g is $0.76 and for sterling it is $2.30 per foot. So once again, in the thinner wire alone, we see a monetary difference of more than $15.00. These are huge numbers when you are figuring your final price.

The only real difference I have found between the two types is that I feel that the SF work hardens much faster than sterling.  For that reason, I only buy full soft wires.  I think that it must be the interior brass in the wire, because brass has always seemed much harder to me than copper or sterling.  I have oxidized SF numerous times and have the same results that I had with sterling.  You do have to be a little more careful handling it during working so it's not gouged - the one time  
that I slipped and really gouged it, I was very pleasantly surprised when I grabbed my trusty Dremel to polish it and see what I could do about the brass showing - and somehow, the silver migrated to the polished part and no more brass showed.  My husband, a retired dentist, says that that can happen occassionally with precious metals... so I don't know if this was a one time occurrence or something that I can count on to happen again. It is recommended that all polishing be done in the tumbler and with a cloth, not to use mechanical polishers.

I have always used sterling earwires and I recently switched to SF for most of my earrings and have been very pleased.  The least expensive sterling that I used was $3.00/pair, and I can purchase SF for $.40 a pair. Once again the cost differential of $2.60, or $10.40 makes a big difference in the retail price. These earwires can be seen on my website, but I have not gotten the bracelets on there yet.

It seems that every day there are new products arriving on the market made in SF, and I for one am very happy about it. There is chain, and sheet, and all kinds of findings.  If you have hesitated to try SF, give it a try, I think that you will be very happy with it, I know that I have been.

Like all my metals, I am very careful where I purchase them.  I have stuck with Rio and Fire Mountain and I'm sure any of the other large, well established metal places would do fine.  There are two types out there. One with 20% sterling and one with only 10%, and I have stuck with the 20%.

If you have hesitated to use silver filled materials, I think that it is worth a try. I know that I have been very happy with the product and I would hope that you would be too.