Daily Wire Tip May 26: Sterling Silver Alternatives?

By on May 25, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
May 26, 2011

Question:

Hello Dale, I love this site and have learned so much from you. I do a lot of wire wrapping and since the precious metals have become more and more expensive I was wondering if you know of an alternative to Sterling Silver. I really love Sterling Silver, but in our climate I have really become weary of the tarnishing and was wondering if there is a wire that will give me the look of Sterling but won’t tarnish, and is also a bit more reasonable in the price range. I often use Sterling necklaces as well as silver plated by the foot for my necklaces and am really interested in changing over to another option. Silver plated items get this awful yellow tint really easily and it is not as easy to clean that. I really hope you can help me! Thanks.

-Daniela in Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Answer:

Thanks Daniela! (I don’t know about this one though.)

I believe you are asking me if there is an alternative to sterling silver that is not only tarnish resistant, but is also less expensive, “white” in color, and not plated. I would say ArgentiumĀ® silver because it is tarnish resistant, but it is a tad more expensive than sterling. Although you have ruled out anything plated, you might try Silver Colored Silver Plated Copper Wire, which has an anti-tarnish coating on it.

The only other solution would be nickel silver. Nickel silver, or German silver, isn’t silver at all, but composed of copper, zinc and nickel. However, a lot of people are allergic to copper and/or nickel.

Let me ask our fellow wire artists, have I missed something folks?

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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29 Comments

  1. avatar

    margaret

    May 26, 2011 at 7:09 am

    I will be interested in this info also…my granddaughter is really in to rings…

    Dale, she has made several of your wave rings..one she made was silverplate and it turned her finger green after awhile..she wasn’t happy…

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

      Hi Margaret, rings are very popular and they can be fun to make. My experience with plated wire rings has been that although we try to be careful while wearing them: one can forget to take a ring off while washing our hands or our hair; we often wear hand lotions whose properties are to remain on our skin for long periods of time; we may automatically rinse a cup with detergent, wash a vehicle, go swimming or sunbathing while wearing a ring, and remember that just general movement produces perspiration – all of these can cause any anti-tarnish coating to come off. It is my opinion that plated and coated wire should be used to make costume jewelry. If your granddaughter puts her time and energy into a ring she really loves (and therefore will wear often) she should make it in either sterling silver or Argentium.

  2. avatar

    Anthony

    May 26, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Another alternative to precious metal wires is stainless steel as well. I’ve started using it and I’ve enjoyed working with it.

  3. avatar

    Linda West

    May 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Hi, I read your question for the day and may have an answer for you. I have been doing wire craft, personalized name necklaces for 25 years. I usually also use the sterling silver or gold filled wire. I have researched other wire alternatives and have found that the non-tarnish silver and gold copper wire has been an excellent product. I use it as a less expensive choice to my customers and have been very happy with the quality. Of course, I do not guarantee that it will last forever but I have not had anyone return with a complaint. If you would like more information please feel free to contact me. I really have looked around a lot…….for other wire and I would like to pass on my experience to others. Linda West

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

      Hi Linda, the non-tarnish wire brand you mentioned (and I edited) is the Same NT wire carried by Wire-Sculpture, an affordable alternative (especially with a Gold Club membership) although it is still a coated wire. I agree that if one uses a craft wire in their product that they need to be honest with their customers, as you do – with no guarantees on its longevity. Thanks for sharing!

  4. avatar

    Terry

    May 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

    What about the new stainless product?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Hi Anthony and Terry, thanks! I have also been experimenting with stainless steel wire, however I didn’t mention it because to me it has a grey (not white) color and it will be a tad more difficult for most folks to work with due to the fact that it has a harder temper and it seems a lot of people want to work in soft wire. I do appreciate your comments (and personally, I enjoy working with the harder temper).

  5. avatar

    Harry W Wood

    May 26, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Perhaps one solution is to rhodium plate the silver…it gives a white look similar to platinum and is stable. Personally I use the Argentium and the plated copper wire.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 8:38 am

      Thanks Harry – I think Daniela is looking for something less expensive though.

  6. avatar

    allison

    May 26, 2011 at 9:24 am

    What about all the new silver-filled products? Looks like sterling, behaves like sterling. I think I’ve seen some non-tarnish coated, but even without that the cost is MUCH easier to bear. A friend who lives in a very tarnish-prone climate swears by double plastic bags and non-tarnish strips, and it seems to work.

  7. avatar

    Sue Beck

    May 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Silver-filled wire is becoming more available in round, square and half-round. So far, I’ve only used 18 Gauge round to make jump rings for my chainmaille classes, and it has worked very well. It also has a tarnish resistant coating on it and comes in dead-soft and half hard.

  8. avatar

    Barb Boran

    May 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Linda, i would be interested in knowing what you have found out about wire as well. I have even considered buying copper wire and plating it with 24k gold or silver “dip” for chain mail rings, etc and was wondering if that might work as well. Silver thank goodness is starting to lower in price but i still dont like it because of the tarnishing either.

    Great question by the way!

  9. avatar

    MrFitz

    May 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I’ve noticed a limited amount of Sterling Silver Filled wire and findings appearing on the market recently.

    It doesn’t solve your tarnish problem, but the cost is lower (and will probably continue to decrease as it becomes more popular).

  10. avatar

    Diane

    May 26, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I suspect the materials that give the grey or silvery color but cost a lot less also sparkle less and feel rougher to the hand. When I use the nickel silver wire, I polish it first with polymer car polish (I use Nu Finish). It doesn’t shine quite as brightly as freshly cleaned sterling silver, but it’s close. It also gives the metal the smooth feel of sterling silver while I’m working with it. The polymer prevents or significantly slows tarnishing on copper wire. I’ve never tried it with stainless steel but that might shine a little brighter. The polymer would probably slow the tarnishing on sterling silver but I’ve tried this and the wire does not sparkle quite as brightly as freshly cleaned sterling silver. In a humid environment, polymer polishing sterling silver would be a trade off between how brilliant you want the item to be and how long you want to go between polishings.

  11. avatar

    Lenny Dixon

    May 26, 2011 at 11:17 am

    You might want to look up “Silver-Filled” wire Just like “gold Filled” wire. tere is also a “silver-filled” wire

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Folks, thanks to all of you who referred to an old product that has only recently been revived: silver-filled wire. Yes it has been around for quite some time, but not many people used, much less knew about it until now. Yes, one of our competitors carries this wire but only in round gauges. Yes, I have personally experimented with the square, half-hard version and yes Wire-Sculpture is in the process of possibly carrying the square (or at least they were thinking about it this past January). No, the manufacturer of this patented product process is not in the United States so contracts and agreements take a while to negotiate. Yes it does have a tarnish-resistant coating on it, however as we all know, this is just a temporary solution because no coating stays on indefinitely.

  12. avatar

    margaret

    May 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Dale, granddaughter used the plated as a practice wire and really loved the ring so she wore it…now she uses SS and goldfilled…She is very good at wirewrapping so I don’t mind paying for the more expensive wire…we are also making the puffed pendants with the craft wire..

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Cool Margaret – thanks for the update :)

  13. avatar

    Matt M.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Hi! I use 304 stainless steel round lock wire to make my chainmaille. Stainless is about the only wire I can think of that would fill all her requirements. If you can find 416 stainless(surgical stainless) it has a slightly different tint than the 304.

  14. avatar

    Rebecca

    May 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Though I don’t do as much of the elaborate wire wrapping that makes up Dale’s style, I do a fair amount of chainmail in aluminum. Bright aluminum doesn’t really tarnish, and it’s a lot lighter metal than copper. The thing to worry about with aluminum is that it’s naturally a much softer metal, so full hard is a must. That being said, it can be hardened close to steel’s temper, but you’ve got to know where to look.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Rebecca, yes chain maille is completely different. I did experiment with some aluminum wire earlier this year and I found absolutely no way to harden it either before or after using it to execute some traditional, basic techniques. I am glad to hear that it works well in chain maille though -thanks!

  15. avatar

    Nancy Sergi

    May 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I have been working with the coated non tarnish wires. I find with wear the 24 gauge darkens more than the 18 gauge. I’ve just ordered something from a site called Everbrite for a product called Protectaclear. They claim it can be used on all jewelry and will maintain the finish. I’ll let you know how it works or if someone has already tried, let me know any tricks.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 26, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Nancy, yes Everbrite’s Protectaclear will work well as a temporary, anti-tarnish shield. I look forward to hearing your results! Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. avatar

    Bev

    May 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Beadalon now sells soft round stainless steel wire in several different gauges and it is quite easy to manipulate and use. Much better than the hardware store stainless steel wire I first used years ago. Not available everywhere, especially here in Canada, but can be found at some beading stores.

  17. avatar

    noahla

    May 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I have never used it, but I have heard good things about silver filled wire. It’s like gold filled only in silver.

  18. avatar

    Linda

    May 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

    In your reply to Daniela, you mentioned German Silver. I see German Silver findings at the bead shows and was wondering what it was. Can you tell me more about this metal. Are you saying German Silver is tarnish resistant? Thanks!

  19. avatar

    Debby

    May 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I just wanted this lady to know that if you rub tooth paste (dry) (no water) on to the item and just watch the tarnish come off on your hands in the tooth paste. Rinse with warm water and possibly a brush to get harder areas. Cleans every time and very good. And it is so shiny after. I also wire wrap with Swarovski crystals and the paste gets into them but warmer water will remove the tooth paste.

    I live in Arizona and it’s drier here but things still tarnish a lot.

    Thank-you for your great suggestions.

  20. avatar

    Donna

    June 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I use niobium almost exclusively. It is easy to work with, but firmer than sterling. It is nickel free and does not tarnish. It is a pure metal – not an alloy. It has also been classified recently as a precious metal. I don’t know if that means the price will go up soon, but so far I have found it manageable. I get my wire supplies online, since locally it would be impossible to find it.

    I Really recommend to stay away from Nickel Silver or German Silver – it contains not only Nickel, but sometimes Lead. Besides that there are so many people with nickel allergies, you don’t need to scare customers away by giving them something that causes or aggravates an allergy. Of course just the idea of Lead is scary, so I would steer clear of either of these things.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      June 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks for the heads-up on niobium Donna – appreciate your comments!

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