What Does Silver-filled Mean?


Published On: 01-08-2012 07:13pm

Comments: 19 - Hits: 11598

Category: Metals

With the ever increasing price of precious metals, most notably gold and silver, many artisans are turning to other metals in order to keep their jewelry affordable for their customers.

One product that has been receiving a lot of attention is silver-filled wire and findings.  Just exactly what is it, and how does it compare to sterling silver?

For comparison, think of the gold-filled jewelry that we have all been buying for years.  When solid gold is out of our price range, gold-filled is a more than acceptable substitute.

You can think of silver-filled the same way.  It is either a 5% or 10% layer of durable sterling silver bonded to (filled with) a copper-alloy or brass-alloy center.  Depending on the manufacturer, they may mark it as 95/5, 90/10, .925/10, .925/5, 1/10th or 1/20th.  It is definitely not the same thing as silver-plated, which is a very thin layer of silver laid on top of a copper-alloy core.  To show you the difference, look at this picture from the Fire Mountain Gems website. 

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The wire on the left is silver-filled (much thicker layer of sterling) and the wire on the right is silver-plated.  Because of it's thin coating, the silver on silver-plated metals can wear off over time, and is easy to nick while working with it or wearing it, causing the core metal to show.

This does not happen with silver-filled metals.  The bonded layer is thick enough to withstand small nicks, and it will never wear off.  If you are allergic to silver-plate but are able to wear sterling silver, you should also be able to wear silver-filled without causing an allergic reaction.

It does make silver jewelry much more affordable!  Silver-filled is a great alternative to sterling silver for the budget-conscious buyer, and it is just as pretty and durable.

As of 1/8/2011, sterling silver is more than triple the price of silver-filled. That can make a big difference in the price of the finished jewelry that you buy.  When I make a bracelet with sterling silver, it can sometimes cost me $25 or more just for the clasp!  That same clasp would be less than $10 for silver-filled, and allows me to sell the bracelet at a much lower price.

For artisans working with silver-filled wire, it behaves much the same as sterling silver.  It can be soldered, hammered, polished, tumbled, and oxidized with the same results as sterling.  It is just a tad softer than sterling, however.

When buying silver-filled wire to work with as an artisan, one thing you may want to ask the seller, beside the percentage of the sterling silver bond, is the color of the core if you are making a design where the ends of the wire will show.  If the core is copper-colored, that will show, for example, on the ends of your earwires.  I know of one seller so far who sells silver-filled with a silver colored core, though I'm sure there are others.  The name of the store is Royal Metals on Etsy.  Their silver-filled has a 10% sterling silver layer bonded to a brass core (90/10), which shows as silver colored when cut.

I hope I've helped you to understand a little more about what silver-filled jewelry is.  If you have any further questions about this or any other metal, please send me a message using any of the contact butons in my studio.  I will get back to you within 24 hours.


Reader's Comments

By Guest on 08/03/2014 @ 11:01pm

Great information I was concerned about silver filled but very happy to know that it wears as well as solid silver.

By Guest on 05/12/2014 @ 06:07am

thank you for this information .. most help full!!

By Guest on 03/23/2014 @ 08:52pm

Very useful especially with the online shoppping options now available. Thank you

By Guest on 01/27/2014 @ 11:59pm

Very useful information. I bought - what I thought - was a silver Celtic cross, years ago. I noticed wear on the back of it and the words "silver filled" and no numbers. Reading your article helped and - since I'm allergic to most base metals, the cross will now be packed away. Thanks for info - seems I may have been duped. Rob

By DCIDesigns on 12/20/2013 @ 11:53pm

Well, the bangle is not solid gold if it is filled with silver, right? ;) It is, as I told the last poster, gold vermeil. It will not fade, however, over time it is possible that the gold plating can wear off, leaving the silver showing through. If it were gold-filled, the underlying metal could be any alloy (usually brass) but the gold covering would be thicker (1/20th by weight) and not as likely to wear off.

By Guest on 12/19/2013 @ 05:11am

hello i just bought a solid gold bangle that is silver filled rather than gold filled as the lady said there is no real difference except the price ? i am worried though is it goin to fade or what is the actual difference??

By DCIDesigns on 12/14/2013 @ 12:47pm

No, you haven't been ripped off. What you have is called 'gold vermeil'. The .925 stamp refers to the silver fill, assuring you that the inside fill is sterling silver and the 37.5% stamp refers to the 9k gold plating over the silver fill (9k is 37.5% pure gold).

By Guest on 12/12/2013 @ 03:08am

What does 37.5% 925, stamped together on 9ct gold curb necklace mean? I hope I haven't been ripped off. I paid 499, they told me it was silver filled. I didn't take much notice.

By Guest on 10/19/2013 @ 09:45pm

Thank you SO much for this! I have been struggling to find what I was looking for with metals and this is exactly what I needed. I really appreciate that merchant link too!

By Guest on 07/23/2013 @ 11:38am

This post helped me a really lot as I have only ever heard of silver or gold plated and silver filled was a new concept that I for 1 have never heard off,and now I understand that its better than plated but not as expensive as solid.So Thankyou

By DCIDesigns on 05/30/2013 @ 06:17pm

I'll answer as best I can here in general, though I will be happy to discuss your questions in more detail through private message. Scroll all the way to the bottom right of this page, and use the button that says "click to contact this seller". Be sure to include your email address for me, because it doesn't come through automatically on the message. ....... As a general answer to your questions: Today, the spot price of raw silver is $22.94 per troy ounce (31.1 grams). There isn't a spot price for raw silver-filled to compare it with because "raw silver-filled" doesn't exist. What I can compare are the prices for a one troy-ounce coil of round wire: sterling silver, $27.93; silver-filled, $14.40. Your sterling silver charm should have a hallmark (a very small stamp that says .925), though not every handmade artisan stamps their work. It really comes down to knowing and trusting your seller. (All prices above are from Rio Grande)

By Guest on 05/29/2013 @ 03:07am

Say the charm is 1.6g, how much would it be for sterling silver and silver-filled at the current market price respectively? How do I know the silver charm I bought is real 925 silver and not silver-filled or silver plated? Thanks very much.

By DCIDesigns on 05/27/2013 @ 06:32am

The price varies, depending on where you buy it and what the price of silver is at the moment. Here is a link to a page where you can get a good idea, as the prices at RioGrande tend to follow the silver spot price. http://www.riogrande.com/category/metals/104/Silver-Filled/5956

By Guest on 05/22/2013 @ 12:56pm

Thank you for the information. Do you know the price of filled silver?

By Guest on 05/21/2013 @ 03:19pm

thank you for this information

By Guest on 05/14/2013 @ 06:20am

Awesome explanation!

By Guest on 04/09/2013 @ 02:49am

,That was very helpful, thank you

By Guest on 12/10/2012 @ 05:34pm

Thank you. This was a very informative and helpful explanation.

By Guest on 05/11/2012 @ 05:31am

Thanks for the information on silver-filled. I kept avoiding it as I thought it meant silver plated. This was helpful.

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