Until recently, the only kind of filled wire I had ever heard of (and used) was gold filled. But with the rising cost of precious metal, it was only a matter of time until silver filled was on the scene. But most people don’t know what this type of supply is, and if it’s worth buying jewelry made with it. I say YES!
To say something is gold or silver “filled” is really confusing, because it means just the opposite. It really means a layer of 12k or 14k (or sterling silver) is bonded over a core of brass. It has to be a minimum of 1/20 of the total weight. Sometimes it’s called “rolled gold”. That’s not like plating – at all. Plating is a thin film of precious metal that can’t take a lot of shaping and doesn’t hold up over time. That’s the stuff that chips and flakes off, tarnishes and turns your skin green. In my opinion, it is one-time use as (literally) costume jewelry that only has to look good for one event. This is why I freak out when I see plated jewelry listed in fashion magazines for ridiculous amounts of money. If something is plated it is NOT WORTH “price upon request”. That’s just nuts.
In contrast to plating, “filled” jewelry is considered by many to be Heirloom Quality. I can wire wrap with this and not worry about cracking the plating. I can wear earrings made of it and not worry about a reaction. Of course, everyone is different in what metals they react to, if any, but if you can wear true solid karat gold and sterling silver without a problem you will not have issues with the filled varieties. The materials’ cost difference is HUGE and should be reflected in the price of the finished piece.
For example, right now I can purchase a pair of 4mm ball post (stud) earrings made from 14 gold fill for $5.39 at a jewelry supply site. The same pair in solid 14k gold is $29.25. And 5, 10, 15 years down the road they should look exactly the same. I have a necklace chain made of 14k gold fill that I have owed since was a child – it is a tad darker than any shiny new gold filled chain I have, but I’ve seen that solid 14k darkens a little over time – especially since I’m not polishing it like I do my silver.
Because I like my silver shiny and not oxidized, it’s possible that I’ll discover silver filled to be not quite as hardy as gold filled. It’s not solid so I’m thinking someday I will wear down that layer. The jury’s still out on the long-term value of silver filled but I am totally sold on the gold filled. You may even have gold filled already and are assuming it’s something else. Next to your Karat (12k, 14k, etc) mark, if it also says “gf”, there you go.