Fine silver, sterling silver, argentium silver, silver/gold fill, silver/gold plate. We have all seen these terms thrown around, but not everybody understands exactly what they mean.
Fine silver is .999 silver. This is as pure as you can get. It can be fused, tarnishes VERY slowly, but is usually too soft for most of our chainmaille needs.
Sterling silver is .925 silver alloyed with other metals. This strengthens the silver, but since it is usually alloyed with copper, it also makes it tarnish. It can’t be fused, it has to be soldered.
Argentium silver is usually .930 silver, and it takes some of the copper out and replaces it with the metalloid germanium. This makes it tarnish resistant, firescale resistant, and like fine silver, you can fuse it.
Solid metals are just that. Solid. The wire, and as a result the rings we make, are solid, with the same metal, all the way through. This holds true for all base metals (copper, bronze, brass, stainless steel, aluminum….) Even sterling silver and argentium silver are solid, and you can even find solid gold rings.
Plated metals. Yes, I said it. You will never see us using plated metal rings here. This is base metal wire, plated with another metal. You will find silver plate, gold plate, copper plate, and I am sure others. This plating is very, very thin, about a micron and is usually meant as a decorative layer. When used in a jewelry application it gets more wear than it can handle, and as most of us know, it chips, cracks, flakes, and wears off faster than a rolling ring.
“Fill” wire. This is where most people don’t understand. Fill wire is a hollow tube of a metal, fused with a base metal core, usually a copper or brass. This hollow tube is much thicker than any plating, usually hundreds to thousands of times thicker. This allows them to wear MUCH longer and keep the look you bought them for. Gold fill is what most of us are used to, but with silver prices going up and showing no sign of slowing down, silver fill is starting to become available. If you are purchasing “fill” wire or rings, there are some numbers you should be aware of. In the case of gold fill, there are usually 2 numbers. We use 14/20. The first number (in this case 14) refers to the karat of the gold. So ours is 14K. The second number refers to the content of the gold. In this case, 1/20. This means that the wire/rings are 1/20, or 5% gold by weight. Silver fill only uses the second number, but again to show the content of silver, by weight. Our Silver fill is 1/10, so it is 10% silver by weight. This also means the silver layer is much thicker on silver fill, verses gold fill.