August 23, 2011

Colin Mahler tells us about Silver Filled jump rings

Hi there. My name is Colin. I am the chainmaille instructor and maker of jump rings here at BeaducationWe are all looking for a reasonably priced, and equally beautiful, alternative to sterling silver. When Lisa Kelly sent me a spool of silver filled wire for making jump rings, I was pretty excited. 

I had never worked with this material before and was eager to start playing. I work mainly in sterling silver, gold-filled, and copper. Sterling silver and gold-filled are both harder than copper

Silver Filled Jump Rings
Jump rings are made by winding wire around a mandrel to make a coil. With sterling silver and gold filled, I use ½ hard wire, so the metal is somewhat stiff and will spring back off the mandrel a tiny bit after I have wound the coil. This makes the jump rings slightly larger than the mandrel they were wound on. Copper by comparison, is very soft. So, when I wind copper wire onto a mandrel, it lays flat to the mandrel; there is no spring back. Because of this, copper rings come out just the tiniest bit smaller than sterling silver or gold filled jump rings wound on the same size mandrel. Which should not seem like a big deal... except that I make chainmaille out of my jump rings and on some weaves, the sizing of the jump rings has to be exact or the weave won’t work.

Jump Ring Maker above.
Silver filled wire has a brass core, so I was curious to see how it would behave. It sprang back slightly off the mandrel after I wound up the coil. I cut the coils with my jump ring maker and threw them in the tumbler to clean. They came out beautifully.

Above are as pair of Mahler's Byzantine Diamond Earrings.
Then it was time to make some chainmaille. Since my main concern with the jump rings was the sizing, I chose a chainmaille pattern that requires exact sizes, the Byzantine Diamond. I discovered the hard way (while teaching a class) that while sterling and GF jump rings of the same size work just fine for this weave, copper jump rings wound on the same size mandrel, because they come out just a touch smaller, are actually too small to make the weave work. I have to use a slightly larger mandrel to wind copper jump rings for this particular weave. I was not sure if this would be the case with the silver filled, so I picked up my pliers and got to work. 

The jump rings had a nice snap to them when they were closed and the Byzantine Diamond came together without a hitch. I then proceeded to oxidize the Diamond in liver of sulfur, scrub the surface clean with pro polish pad, and throw it back in the tumbler to shine it back up. If I didn’t know it was silver filled, I would have never guessed that it was not sterling.

I have been won over by the silver filled wire. It seems like an excellent alternative to sterling. As a chainmaille instructor, I usually provide the jump ring kits for my students in sterling. Which at $40 something per ounce, I can no longer afford to do. I thought I would have to start using copper or stop providing kits altogether. Now I’m gonna switch to silver filled

* Colin Mahler teaches more than a dozen chainmaille classes for Beaducation. Many of her extraordinairy designs can be purchased on her website as well. 


Alice said...

Thanks so much for the input. I've been wanting to try the silver filled wire but just haven't gotten around to it.

Amy B. said...

Thank you for sharing the results of your testing the silver filled wire !! I've been curious for some time, how it holds up.

MoonRae said...

Thanks Colin for your review and honest opinion!

CS said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with silver filled wire. I have been a little leary of it until now,yet I also miss using sterling. For now, sterling is out of my price range. Your info has given me the confidence to give this new material a try.

Dot said...

I am having a problem removing the coil from the mandrel after making my first jump rings on the mister twister oval jump ring maker. I used the smallest size mandrel and 20 g. copper wire to try it out. It came with no instructions but I found the video on your site on how to use it and watched it. According to her you just snip the wire and it slides right off. I have tried everything! I even sprayed it with w-40 lubricant to see if that helped, used nylon pliers to grasp it and tug and nothing works. I'm stuck with a copper wrapped mandrel. I coiled about an inch of coils. Can anyone help me?

Molly @ Beaducation said...

Hi Dot. It sounds like you got a faulty mandrel, where it's wider at the end you're supposed to slide the jump rings off. Or perhaps there is a "bump" or mar in the mandrel. Can you see if this is the case?

If you got it from us, please return it to us with the wire on so we can see what happened. We will send you a new one. (Click here for instructions on returns:

If you got it from someone else, you'll need to contact that supplier about its return policy.

Feel free to call us if this does not seem to be the case and you want to chat about your particular situation. Thank you!

Molly @ Beaducation said...

DOT - Did you find a solution? The copper is so super soft that it really molds to the mandrel, especially something as relatively thin as 20 gauge. If you have determined that your mandrel is not faulty, you will probably just have to uncoil the wire to get it off if it's that much trouble. Colin suggests trying a thicker wire like 18 gauge and lube up the mandrel, though it will probably still be a bit of a chore to get the coil off. Sterling or silver filled would be way easier to work with.