Non-Tarnish Alternatives to Sterling Silver Wire: Which are Best?

by Tracy.
(New Zealand)

copper wire heart

Hi there
I have made so many charms and some one asked me if I used sterling sliver on my charms. I was not sure what to tell her, so when I got home I look at my products of the headpins and they are not sterling sliver.

How long will they take to rust?

Not sure where to buy sterling sliver and how much it is?

Not sure how to stop the headpins that I have on my charms for rusting or do you think that I must change them all the sterling sliver headpins?

Is there wire out there I can use and not worry about my jewellery rusting?

MIx&Match Creations

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  1. Kathleen Bennett says:

    I had the same problem, Tracy, with my silver plated metals. My old stock has turned black as does silver; although I don’t mind that I have still started my silver stash as more people want that, but i also need to get more of the non tarnish Artistic wire.
    When you think of the time put into the pieces you make – I’m definately moving up to sterling silver.
    Hope you sove your problem soon

  2. Kathy Hodges says:

    Hi Tracy! I use Argentium silver headpins and wire as much as I can. It has all the qualities of sterling silver with the added benefit of tarnish resistance, thanks to the addition of an element, the name of which is escaping me right now! You can buy Argentium wire and components at They are a bit more expensive than sterling, but I think it’s worth it in the long run. Hope this helps and good luck!

  3. Hi, Tracy. You are not alone in the quandary about what materials to use in jewelry making, especially with the price of sterling and Argentium. A couple of thoughts:
    Who are your customers? And what prices are they willing to pay? If they will purchase your pieces with the added expense of sterling, then yes, do invest in this material.
    If your clientele is use to a more inexpensive line of jewelry, how about a hybrid line? If there is a lot of wirework involved in a pair of earrings, I’ll use a non-tarnishing Artistic silver plated wire. But I’l use sterling silver ear wires. Or if the earring components are annealed steel, I’ll add oxidized sterling ear wires.

    That said, I always note on the earring card or necklace tag exactly what the materials are. Truth in advertising and all.

    Personally, I’m thrilled that many people are moving away from strictly sterling and gold jewelry. Lots more metals and leather and fiber out there for me to explore and have fun with.

  4. I use non-tarnish silver plated copper (and non-tarnish copper) wire from Has always been brilliant. I know some people who use titanium and say it is brilliant. I used to only use sterling silver for some pieces but with the price rising so regularly – I think i’ll be using the plated alternative more often!

  5. I found some wonderful silver-filled wire at (I hope I’m not violating any rules by mentioning a supplier). The advantage of it over the silver-plated is you can get it in dead-soft.
    I use that site almost exclusively now for my metals since they are fast, accurate and, usually, the cheapest source. I’ve also had great results from German, silver copper-plated wire as mentioned by Tricky – I found, to my chagrin, though, there are several levels of quality even in that. I found some that didn’t tarnish and looked as good as .925 sterling. I believe I got it from Monsterslayer as well. I’m primarily into copper now (I’ve mentioned in other posts how I have been fortunate to find a bunch of salvaged) but I definitely love my silver.

  6. It all depends on my price point. If I’m making a $8 pair of earrings, I’ll use cheaper, plated, silver headpins. For wire wrapping a cab, it depends if I want to oxidize it or not. Copper and Sterling will oxidize but argentium, craft wire and fine silver will not.
    Rio has a product by MIDAS for oxidizing brass, bronze and copper. Colors will be light brown to black but I pull pieces when they are brown and then tumble. The oxidation does not continue to turn darker (like with liver of sulphur) and it’s a softer oxidized look. I am not a rep for Rio, just like this product.
    Good luck!

  7. Hi! I am new to Rena’s Jewelry making Journal, although I have had several of her books since 2009 when I retired and started with jewelry making. As for Resources, Fire Mountain, is very good, quick, and they have a large selection of Argentium, it is a little bit more expensive that Sterling Silver, but it is offset by the fact that it doesn’t tarnish like Sterling.

    Also Rio Grande is another of my suppliers, but Fire Mountain offers a bigger quantity discount if you are purchasing more than wire or a volume of materials. There are also products that you can use to seal wire that tarnishes like copper and other base metals. I am experimenting with some of those now. I like to use Square and Half Round wire in my projects, and you can’t find those everywhere. Both of these vendors have more than just round wire.

    I am enjoying reading the shared thoughts on the Jewelry Making Journal. I am just setting up a website, and trying to get all the photography set up, and it is more than a little bit intimidating. Any advice????

  8. Hi,
    I’ve been getting sterling headpins from Beaded Impressions. After hours of online searching I found them to be the most reasonable and then discovered they were unbelievably fast. Their silver filled head pins are nice also but I haven’t used them long enough to be sure they aren’t going to deteriorate like the ordinary metals. One big mistake I made when I started was not keeping track of where I purchased items. As a result the metals that seemed to do well have unknown sources…so, Alice, please learn by my mistake. Love this newsletter and the comments…have learned so much.

  9. Diane D says:

    I have been using Beadalon German Wire for 3 years and my customers are complaining that the wire is turning colors and tarnishing, even though the packaging reads “Non Tarnish”. I am looking for a 20 gauge wire that has the same properties as German Wire but that can be cleaned like sterling. The German wire is nice and bright, but it gets little black dots on the wire that will not come off and the copper shows through after about 1 month on all the colors, not just the silver and gold. Does anyone have any suggestions on a less expensive wire than Sterling or gold that I can use without tarnishing? Thank You.

  10. Donna Lucas says:

    Stainless steel wire does not tarnish easily. It is harder than silver and takes some getting used to as well as food at.

  11. I am having some of the same issues with silver plated wire. I’ve tried many different ones and after a very short time, the silver wears away and you’re left with the copper base metal showing through. Putting time and effort into your pieces and having a customer disappointed is just getting really frustrating.

    The wires state non tarnish but they really aren’t tarnishing, its the silver that’s wearing away showing the base metal under. Is there a silver plated wire that lasts longer than a few weeks?

    I am considering phasing into sterling silver. I do offer a sterling silver upgrade in my listings and I’ve recently started including a ‘how to care for your silver plated jewelry’ card in with each order. You definitely don’t want to get it wet or wear constantly. I might start listing that in my individual listings as well. Thanks for all the info on where to purchase sterling at good prices. I am going to start using sterling findings as well, silver balls, crimp covers, wire guardians, etc.

  12. Beaded Birch says:

    I have used Artistic Wire for several years and don’t have a problem as long as the jewelry is taken care of, ie. kept in a zip lock bag when not being worn. Good to know about the Geran wire as I just got some to experiment with. I’ll keep an eye on it. Does anyone know if silver filled wire is good to use for ear wires?

  13. I have been using Artistic wire for years and have never had any problems at all. I recently started to use Argentium sterling silver wire and chain and they are already tarnishing! So I may just stick with my beloved Artistic wire.

  14. Charlotte Smith says:

    Hi everyone, didn’t real through all the emails, but have a few statements on what you are using. First, there is a new product for sterling called Alkeme, sold on PJ Tools, but only has discs to stamp on now (maybe something else) The discs are as low as 5 for $5.00. I love the non tarnished copper products and now trying to find non tarnish copper sheet metal (so if any knows where to find this, please let me know). Also, I have used the plated silver for years and never had a problem with it (really can’t remember anything ever tarnishing). I don’t think anyone mentioned silver and gold fill, which I know the silver is nearly as expensive as ss.

    Hope this helps. Charlotte

  15. When using gold-plated head pins, they eventually darken a bit and have a metal smell on my fingers. What type of gold-colored head pins should I use so this does not happen.

  16. Hi Mary, your best bet is to work toward preventing tarnish – have you seen this post here at JMJ:
    Prevent Tarnish on Your Jewelry

  17. Thank you for the link regarding anti-tarnish and prevention of tarnish. I loved somebody’s comment about putting a note with each piece to let your clients know how to prevent tarnish. I will keep in tune to your website it sounds very informative .

    Happy holidays!

  18. Hi there, in my opinion I’ve did so many rea searching and the only way to keep your jewelries from tarnishing is keeping it away from moisture. Moisture causes the wires to tarnish a lot faster. I suggest putting them in a safe non moisture area maybe a small plastic bag you can get them at your local craft store. All my findings I had for a very long time and they all have not rusted or tarnished at all due to leaving them out of moisture. Also if you want to clean them they can be cleaned with dish soap and it has to be properly dried. If it is not properly dried you will start seeing the jewelries tarnish faster than usual.

  19. LynnDeeLou says:

    Hi there, regarding the wearing off of the silverplate wire: I have been making rings of 16 gauge wire and started off using silver plate. The copper showed through within a very short time. I began researching silver filled wire as an alternative and, though more expensive than plate, found that it is much more resistant to wear than plate. I also researched vendors and purchased a product from Rio Grande as many said it was better because it was brass based and tougher. Have not purchased from other vendors, but am very satisfied with the quality from them. The wire is a bit harder to bend, but well worth it. Rena, love your website!

  20. LynnDeeLou, thank you for sharing your research and experiences with silver plate vs. silver filled. And thank you for your lovely thought about my website! That makes my day. 🙂

  21. I just came across this. I use stainless steel wire in some of my designs, from bangle bracelets to ear wires to head pins. I purchase mine from Rio Grande but other suppliers may carry it. It work hardens more quickly than other metals and is a bit stiffer to handle but the shine is beautiful and the finished product extremely durable.

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