Daily Wire Tip May 26: Telling Metals Apart

By on May 26, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
May 26, 2010


Is there any good way to sort silver and gold tone from sterling and true gold? Some of my first bits got put into the wrong bags so now I’m not sure what’s what.


Silver and gold ‘tone’ items are usually manufactured by adhering a bit of the precious metal named onto an inexpensive base metal, which is most often magnetic. Spread your scraps onto a flat surface (like paper plate) and run a magnet over them. The gold and silver ‘tone’ items will be attracted to the magnet.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    May 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

    what a neat trick!

  2. avatar

    Maxine Booth

    May 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Wow, thank you! That makes it really easy.

  3. avatar

    Lana Grine

    May 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

    That was a great tip for separating plated wire from real silver and gold. I can certainly put that to good use. Thanks!!

  4. avatar


    May 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

    The only problem with that one is that raw brass is used a lot with gold and silver plating on it and would not be magnetic. All that shines is not gold I guess. Maybe the Lady does not use much brass. I love the brass filigree as it has so many uses like wraps or palettes on which to bead to one’s hearts content.


  5. avatar

    Lynne Wallace

    May 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Dale, you rock.

  6. avatar

    Kathy Statton

    May 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Dale, thanks so much, I’ve got some snips that got into the wrong containers.

  7. avatar

    Lisa Hunter

    May 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Really? Since when is copper magnetic?

    More of these materials are plated over copper than over any ferris material. Your best bet, with the silver colored, is to dip one end in a weak liver of sulpher solution. Does it immediately tarnish? Chances are it’s silver. Does it not darken at all or does it darken a little, but not as much as other pieces? Then sand the end a bit and see if you can see a copper color.

    Gold color vs gold filled is more difficult, but could be done by weight if you have a .00 gram scale. Most gold colors are still plated on copper or bronze, so you can still try to see if the core is copper by filing the end, then dipping in LoS, does the core tarnish but not the outside? Possibly GF/GP. Does the whole wire tarnish? probably bronze. This is less reliable for gold color. Unless you’ve used a lot of GF/GP wire, it is probably best to make the assumption that it is base metal, and go on from there.

    None of the craft wire I use is plated on ferris materials, therefore none of it would be magnetic. And I’m using some pretty basic, easily obtainable brands, like Craft Wire.

    • avatar


      May 27, 2010 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Lisa – neither I nor my personal students ever use base metals so we do not have this problem. I had thought of the density differences however most folks mentioned having small scraps and bits where a using a scale would be a tedious method of separation.

  8. avatar

    Connie Bissell

    May 26, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Not necessarly, there is a lot of copper and brass plated with silver and gold that will not attract a magnet. You will need to use a good magnifying glass to look at the ends and to determin if they are plated or not. One way to tell is if the filler has tarnished, especially with gold as gold will not tarinsh like other metals.

  9. avatar


    May 26, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Altho I haven’t taken a real leap into wire wrapping, I am loving the slow process of getting started and you are always a great inspiration and so reassuring with all of your bits of wisdom and encouragement! Thanks so much!

  10. avatar


    May 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you, I have done the same thing and was just going to toss it all and start over.

  11. avatar

    Kathy Klopp

    May 27, 2010 at 2:36 am

    Great tip! Never thought of that.

  12. avatar


    June 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Thank You!!!!!!!

  13. avatar

    Kathy K

    August 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks! What a great tip! Although some people have pointed out that this does not necessarily sort out all of the base metal coated items, it is a good start. At least you know that if any of the items react to the magnet – those items are not real gold or silver. I love reading your Q&As!