Silver-filled is all-new and there are plenty o’ questions about it. Here are a few that the rest of the Rio Technical Support team and I have fielded in recent days, based on our own use of this cool stuff!

Question #1: What IS silver-filled?

Well, here’s some great information straight from our website:

The Rio Grande website, features lots of silver-filled product, PLUS by clicking on the “Info Sheet” tab you can access more great information.

Rio Grande carries 1/10 silver-filled fabrication metals, made with .925 sterling. We find that the additional thickness better serves fabrication techniques such as cutting, forming, polishing. Rio Grande offers single-clad sheet as well as round, half-round, and square wire. Wire is available in both dead-soft and 1/2-hard tempers.

Question #2: Can you solder silver-filled? How?

  • YOU BET—just use silver solders. Just like gold-filled, you want to avoid using hard solder.
  • The critical thing is to not get fire scale (if you do, you will probably sand through the silver trying to get it out), so be sure to coat the piece with a barrier flux.
  • All the regular fluxes that help solder flow will work fine: My-T-Flux, Handyflux, Jel-flux and so on.
  • For pickle, use Rio pickle or Pickle It. It might not remove the stubborn pink stuff from the brass, but it will clean the silver very nicely. Sanding or rubber wheels work well to remove the pink from the brass.
  • PS: Balling up the ends of the wire is not a good idea. It’s difficult to do (the silver melts first, then the brass) and it looks pretty bad.

Question #3: Can it be formed or stamped?

  • YES, you bet! BUT, great care must be taken to not do too much—anything that appears that wasn’t intended cannot be sanded out because you will expose the brass. SO, it can be done, but one has to be very careful.
  • Stamping works great.
  • General forming is very easy to do, the layers don’t separate and come apart.
  • Annealing silver-filled is the same as annealing silver: heat it to a dull red (using a barrier flux such as Cupronil or Firescoff to prevent firescale), then let it cool for a sec and quench in water.

Question #4: Can it be hallmarked or quality stamped?

UUUUHHHH……NO, not really.
Here is the intelligent answer from our fabrication metals product manager, Kevin Whitmore:

At this time, the FTC has not approved any quality mark for silver-filled metal. The best course of action would be to omit making any quality mark (at least until a legal agreement is issued by the FTC around what a proper mark should be).

—And besides. There is no stamp with which to mark it.

Question #5: What’s the best way to finish it? You know, polishing or oxidizing?

  • First of all, I’ll say flat out: finish silver-filled as little as possible . . . really.
  • Tumbling in steel shot is a great way to put a shine on silver-filled. Steel shot tumbling is a non-abrasive finishing technique, and there is no chance of removing the silver layer. Keep in mind, though, that steel shot can’t remove scratches.
  • Conventional polishing with abrasives should be avoided if possible. Using sandpaper, rubber wheels, polishing compounds and so on removes silver and may expose the underlying brass.
  • Oxidizing—woo-hoo!— is a breeze. The silver will oxidize just like normal sterling with Black Max or Liver of Sulfur; both work great.

Question #6: Does it tarnish? What’s the best way to take care of it, to keep it from tarnishing?

Question #7: What safety concerns should I be aware of?

  • There are none.
  • Silver-filled materials comply with California Prop 65 (BUT you still shouldn’t eat it).

Question #8: Does it come in other forms, say findings or casting grain?

  • In fabrication metals, Rio stocks round, half-round and square wire and single-clad sheet, but we’re always open to customer requests, so if you have one, let us know! We’ll look into getting it.
  • In findings, we have many pre-fabricated pieces (ear wires, components, toggle clasps) and are looking to add to the findings line so be sure to let us know what you’d most like to see.
  • No, sadly there is no casting grain—it’d be kinda like putting a jelly donut in a blender. All you end up with is an alloy something like silver solder (the composition is similar).

Question #9: What else do I need in order to get working with this silver-filled stuff?

Nothing, really. If you’re soldering, just make sure you have a barrier flux on hand to use.

Question #10: Where do I go for more information? (where else?)