Silver filled jewelry: what exactly is it?

July 6, 2011
silver filled earrings

Earrings made with
silver filled head pins and
ear wires.

If you use sterling silver in your jewelry, you have felt the pain of rising silver prices. Although the market always fluctuates up and down a tad unpredictably, it feels like it has only gone UP lately. Because it has!

Many jewelry designers have been forced to switch materials or to use less sterling silver in their designs to compensate for the increased costs. However, the quality and look of sterling are popular for good reason. Hence the rise of affordable new
silver filled wire,
beads and
jewelry findings on the market!

Gold filled (GF) jewelry findings (also called “gold overlay”) have been popular for years. Gold filled is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a base of less costly metal.

This gold layer is many times thicker than a standard plating – anywhere from 50 to 100,000 times thicker. The law, gold filled items must be at least 1/20th gold by weight.

silver filled beads

Silver filled beads are indistinguishable from
sterling silver beads.

Silver filled jewelry findings are created the same way, but as of date, there are no industry standards for silver fill, which can make it hard to tell what you’re getting. The new line of
silver filled items that Rings & Things carries contains 1/10th sterling silver by weight. As with gold fill, the sterling silver layer is hundreds of times thicker than a silver plating.

Silver filled wire can be manipulated just like sterling silver wire. The silver is bonded to the core metal and does not flake off the way a plating might. We have not tried this, but we are told that it can be soldered too. (We’ve also heard it is tricky to solder SF wire, so for now, we recommend sticking with sterling silver wire for soldering.) Silver filled items look identical to sterling silver, and can be antiqued just like sterling silver.

silver filled French hooks

Silver filled French hooks – if you look closely, you can see they are stamped “.925 SF”.

We have a couple of employees who (almost freakishly!) take pride in their ability to “eat” the plating off costume jewelry (apparently their skin is especially acidic). Within just a few days — or sometimes hours! — standard plated jewelry is destroyed on their bodies! In the interest of science, we asked them to test out silver filled ear wires and are very pleased to report that they had no issues. The silver filled earrings look and wear exactly the same as sterling silver earrings.

silver filled earrings

Silver filled components,
sparkly glass and
freshwater pearls make it refreshingly affordable to make these earrings!

It is up to each individual artist to decide what materials to use in his or her jewelry. Some people will always want pure sterling, no matter the cost. Since silver filled jewelry findings cost 40-60% less than sterling silver findings, while offering the same look, we think it won’t be long until SF jewelry is a common designation. ~ Cindy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You Might Also Like

  • Moxie August 1, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for the detailed info. Much appreciated!

  • Kerri-Anne February 9, 2016 at 2:49 am

    Thanks for your help and advice on silver filled. Your advice has made my decision on my purchase more informed on what I’m paying for. Thanks Again.

  • Louella June 25, 2017 at 11:18 am

    It is hard to find silver filled findings and knowing that Rio grande is honest and has the products I need, makes my life a little easier. Thank you.

    • Polly June 27, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Hi Louella,
      It’s true, Rio is honest — and we are too! =) We don’t have as many jeweler’s products as Rio does, but we still have a nice wide base of good quality jewelry supplies at wholesale prices for professional crafters … And we have no minimum order!
      Polly, Rings & Things

  • Cherianne November 27, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I bought my first order from Fire Mtn Gems, and huge shade difference between my SS jumprings and my SSF jewelry. 🙁 It put me in a huge bind. 🙁

    • Polly November 28, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Hi Cherianne,
      It sounds like one of them is tarnished/oxidized (or perhaps both to different degrees). Sterling silver and silver filled are the same color – but if one of them is oxidized (or both to different degrees), then they could be temporarily different shades. But this is easily remedied: I suggest picking up a liquid silver cleaner. Grocery stores often have one. Don’t get a creamy type that you need to scrub with, but a liquid that you can dip them in, swish them, and then rinse them off. If your local grocery store doesn’t have a silver dip, we sell Shine Brite Silver Dip: and you should also be able to find it (or something similar) at local jewelry stores (perhaps call first, to make sure they have something that will work.).

  • Amy Adair April 6, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I’m so very interested in this acidic skin idea…because this happens to me! Not quite as frequently as in one day, but definitely within a week, things that have been (obviously untruthfully so) stamped .925 have tarnished and turned my finger dark within 2 weeks…and forget costume jewelry, I consider that to be disposable after use. They say painting jewelry with clear nail polish helps this but ive always found this to make it uncomfortably thicker…even still, it wears off faster than gold or silver plating. Though, I recently got a Gelish UV gel nail polish kit and I’ve thought of implementing it in some of my work (jewelry assemblage design) where I have previously used regular ‘ol nail polish. #weirdskin #jewelrydesign #rambling #sorrynotsorry.