Educate Yourself: Weights of Metal Alloys

This is another in the continuing series of blogs with the theme of "educate yourself". This blog came about as the result of seeing a lot of beads for sale that were labeled as solid sterling silver - but for 100 they weighed in at well under 1/2 oz by the person who was selling them.

As you know if you've read my past blogs you know that silver plated items, and worse 'Tibetan silver' items are likely to be something else entirely, you've probably guessed that 100 SOLID Sterling Silver beads should probably weigh more than 1/2 ounce. You're right.

Given that I make chainmaille I work with jump rings that I coil & cut myself. These jump rings start out as raw wire. I thought I'd give you a bit of a comparison of the weights of different metal alloys to show just how heavy REAL sterling silver really is. Much of my chainmaille work is done in Bright Aluminum, stainless steel, or copper. Most know that copper is a heavy material to work with too but its actually a lot lighter than Sterling silver because Sterling silver is only 7.75% copper.

Sterling silver is an alloy of copper & silver. Elements Cu (copper) and Ag (Silver), with copper being at 29 on the periodic table and Silver being at 47 - a much heavier element - it simply stands to reason that items with an actual higher content of real silver means the item is going to be heavier than those that contain a majority content of lighter elements.

So without further adieu here's the list of metals I work in and the number of feet of wire you get per pound of 20gauge wire (.8mm wire diameter)

Bright aluminum - alloy 5356 - 1 pound = 1,091 feet (400% lighter than Sterling Silver)
Titanium - alloy TI-AL6-V4 - 1 pound = 503 feet
Stainless steel - alloy 304 - 1 pound = 369 feet (35% lighter than Sterling Silver)
Jeweler's Brass - alloy C226 - 1 pound = 340 feet
Copper - Alloy C110 1 pound = 340 feet
Gold Fill - 14k 1/20 over strong brass - 1 pound = 336 feet
Niobium - pure elemental metal - 1 pound = 336 feet (22% lighter than Sterling Silver)
Nickel Silver - Alloy of copper, nickel & zinc - 1 pound = 332 feet
Bronze - alloy of Tin & Copper - 1 pound = 328 feet

And lastly Sterling Silver - 1 pound = 272 feet.

OVER 50 feet less per pound than the next heaviest metal. So when someone tries to sell you Sterling Silver wire or components that aren't appropriately more heavy than wire or components made of another metal - question them on their product, if they can't or won't give you an honest answer, find your products from another source, a reliable one that isn't purchasing mystery product imported from China.


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