|Solar Quartz Necklace set available on Artfire|
I try very hard not to use plated anything in my work, although sometimes some findings may slip through, or I may use them in cases where I can't find anything comparable in a better material. This is because the plating on an electroplated item is pretty quick to come off, leaving an item so dingy-looking it's only fit for the trash. I have been using gold filled for years because the cost of solid gold is absolutely prohibitive; and fairly recently silver filled wire, chain and findings have become readily available.
The process of plating involves placing a base metal item into a bath that includes gold/silver material, then running an electric current through the item, causing the gold/silver molecules to adhere to the metal. This means that your plated item has a gold/silver layer that is several molecules thick. The process of plating is not regulated in any way, which means the quality of that metal layer is questionable.
I sort of hate the term "gold filled" because it sounds like something else is filled with a gold core, when actually the opposite is true. It's a layer of gold or sterling that is heat- and pressure-bonded onto a core of another metal, usually brass or sometimes copper. The Federal Trade Commission does regulate what metals can be called filled, the minimum quantity being 1/20th the weight of the item for gold and 1/10th for silver (although you will see 1/20 silver as well). That means that the precious metal layer is hundreds of times thicker than plated and it should stand up to years and years of wear, even in a chainmaille piece where there is constant friction against neighboring links. Consequently you can trust that the quality of a gold- or silver-filled item is uniform. If you see a 1/20 or 1/10 stamp on an item that means it's filled (.925 means it's sterling silver). This layer is thick enough to stand up to tumble polishing, buffing, even some light etching.
The cost of silver filled wire is about two thirds the cost of solid sterling. That means an item that is virtually identical to full sterling, but much more affordable, and I'm very excited to be able to pass those savings on to you.
It should be noted that silver filled is sterling and will tarnish, and is therefore covered under our tarnishable metals lifetime care policy, which can be found here: http://youvegotmaille.net/materials
The one notable thing that silver filled is not as good for is soldering, which I hope to do more of, so I will continue to use Argentium and sometimes sterling for that. More about that in a later blog post, there are some exciting developments on that front. Stay tuned :)