Daily Tip Aug. 6: Wire Metal Substitutions

By on August 5, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
August 6, 2010


Can you substitute artistic, German, Argentium or silver plated wire in place of sterling silver, as long as the piece calls for round wire and will not be hammered? If so, what would they be equivalent to as far as dead soft, half hard, etc.?

-Janet in Grand Rapids, Michigan


I see no reason why the metals you listed cannot be substituted for Sterling Silver, as long as the shape and temper match whatever pattern you are following. Argentium is .923 sterling silver, and its temper is about the same as .925 sterling. What is called "German Silver" is really Nickel Silver, which is a product that contains absolutely no genuine silver at all, simply named for its "silvery" color. Nickel silver’s temper is comparable to .925 sterling silver.

The only difference I need to mention is that artistic wire such as enameled copper wire like Gold Enameled and Silver Enameled is exactly what the name implies: copper wire that has been enameled, meaning the copper base is soft.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Mary V from Buffalo, NY

    August 6, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Will copper base wire work harden? Will it harden when hammered? What about aluminum wire…

    • avatar


      August 7, 2010 at 12:55 am

      Hi Mary V from Buffalo : ) Yes copper wire will harden much more if hammered/forged, no it does not easily ‘work harden’ with regular techniques, but it does harden ‘enough'; no aluminum will not harden well as the forging method tends to cause it to become brittle and thus break easily in the small gauges that we generally use to make jewelry.

  2. avatar


    August 6, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Dale gives a great explanation of the various wires. I routinely use Argentium wire in high end designs. It’s available in square and half-round as well as the round Janet mentions. For more affordable wire-wrapped designs I use nickel silver–also available in shapes besides round. [Check out the wire offerings here for these other shapes.

    Because both nickel silver and argentium are alloys (not just coated like the craft wire), I also hammer them just as I’d do with sterling or pure copper wire.

  3. avatar


    August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am


    The only thing I would add is that if Nickel Silver contains *any* nickel, you want to advise your customers or at least label it as such. The term “German Silver” will confuse most. I suggest this because nickel allergy is pretty common. I really dislike it when I get a piece of jewelry and I can’t wear it. I don’t go back if it seems that everything they have is of the same quality or I can’t distinguish. Even if I didn’t buy any thing, I have a better feeling about the vendor or store if they are upfront.

    Don’t think that it’s just the ear wires that matter, the drops touch the jaw and it is worse if you use the phone a lot. Inexpensive findings like clasps can drive a person crazy. Now that I am learning to make wire jewelry, I ask about composition of the materials I am interested in and if they can’t tell me, I don’t want it. I am very conscious of what I am using for my own sake as well as my future customers.

  4. avatar


    August 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Please note that about 20% of the population is alergic to nickel. You might want to let people know what the metal you are using is.

  5. avatar

    Kathleen Bianchi

    August 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I would also like to add “caution” to the above. If you are selling your jewelry to the public, I would advise that the wire you are using, is properly named in each piece.

  6. avatar

    Carol Roskey

    August 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I am extremely allergic to nickel and avoid any kind of jewelry or other items made with nickel silver so I’d suggest you clearly label whatever you make. This allergy is one of the most common metal allergies.