Sterling Silver, Silver Filled and Gold Filled are wonderful to work with and are beautiful to wear. These are the materials of choice for me. My supplier of choice for my silver and gold is Rio Grande in Albuquerque, NM.
The Sterling Silver consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion, improving the metal’s hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal’s value. Instead, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson, and the intricacy of the design.
Silver filled or silver overlay is less costly than Sterling Silver. Silver filled is made with a brass core and a Sterling Silver .925 overlay bonded to the core. The thickness of the sterling silver overlay on the wire I use is a full 1/10th of its overall weight. This silver layer is much thicker than silver plating which wears off and will last many years when taken care of.
Gold-filled, or gold overlay, is made by heat- and pressure-bonding a thin layer of karat gold to a brass (or other base metal) core. The “14/20” or “12/10” notation refers to the industry shorthand describing the resulting material. The first number is the karat purity of the gold used; the second number is the amount, by weight, of gold to the substrate material. “14/20” gold-filled material is made with 14-karat gold and the gold represents 1/20th (or 5%) of the total weight of the material. I use the 14/20 gold filled for my jewelry.