A Beginners Guide To Buying Silver

Starting out on your own at home is daunting. In the Jewellery School we provide you with project materials and we guide you on what you need. But if you are working at home, starting out on your independent jewellery journey the choice of silver bullion can be pretty overwhelming.





Where to buy?

Unless you are lucky enough to live in Hatton Garden or Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter you are probably going to be buying online. If you want to be sure the silver you are buying is actually silver we recommend shopping with an established dealer. In the UK our top three are www.bellorerashbel.co.uk, www.palmermetals.co.uk and our favourite is www.cooksongold.com. We like Cooksons because the website is so easy to use, you can get an accurate estimate on the cost before you buy and their customer service is excellent - you can live chat with them to ask questions and get advice.


How Much?

The price of metals changes every day and the bullion dealers adjust their pricing constantly to reflect this You can see the price chart, know as the metals fix price, here. Make sure you save all your scrap, dust and waste ( known as lemel) you can sell this back to the bullion dealers as scrap when you have collected enough or even reuse it by melting it down.


What To Buy.

It all depends on what you want to make.


Most of your jewellery will be made from sterling silver, (an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper). The dealers also sell fine silver, Brittania silver, Argentium silver and various other specialist alloys. Make sure you know which one you are buying when you shop. Sterling silver is generally sold soft or ready annealed.


As you become more skilled you may choose to buy a limited range of stock metals and adapt them to your needs - roll down your own sheet, draw down wire etc. For now though we will assume you are buying all your stock metals in.


If you have a particular design in mind roughly sketch out the design and also the process for making and plan what materials you need. If you can, always buy a little extra in case it doesn't go exactly to plan. If you want to set up a stock of silver here is a rough guide to the basics you might want to have in your stock box. As you get to know what you like making you will find you refine this.


Wire

Wire comes in round, square, oval, D shape (one flat side, one rounded side) rectangular and fancy shapes and in various widths and depths. It is generally bought by length.


  • 1mm / 1.2mm round is useful for making jump rings, bails, connectors or chain.

  • 0.8mm hard round wire is useful for making earwires and ear stud pins and small jump rings and connectors.

  • For rings choose wires between 1.5mm and 2.5mm in any profile you like. Remember, the thicker the wire the harder it will be to shape. You need about 60mm - 70mm per ring.

Sheet

Sheet comes in mm thicknesses from 0.3mm and 4mm and is sold by area. You can choose any dimension in width and depth so you can buy it to suit your design. Always buy a fraction larger than you need as the cutting is not always perfectly accurate.


The thickness you need depends on the size (a large area will need a thicker sheet to maintain it's rigidity) and design of your project. At the jewellery school we tend to use 0.7mm / 0.8mm most often. For small delicate designs 0.5mm would be fine, for larger or chunkier design 0.8mm - 1mm would be better.


Findings

Findings is the name for the functional bits of jewellery design - jump rings, clasp, ear wires, scroll backs, headpins etc. You can make all of these yourself but often it helps to have a few ready made ones to hand. The most important thing is that they are in keeping with your design.


Ear wires / Ear hooks / Hook wires. Choose a wire that is the right size to balance your earring nicely. You can also make these from 0.8mm hard silver wire.


Ear stud pins and scroll backs. Again you can make stud pins from 0.8mm hard wire. Scroll back can be sawn from 0.3mm silver sheet but really - who has the time.


Clasps. Chains clasps need to be secure and the right size. If you have a light pendant choose a light secure clasp (a bolt ring or lobster claps is ideal) so it doesn't move around and hold your necklace safely. A heavy necklace or pendant needs a stronger clasp but you could use a hook clasp or toggle clasp as the weight of the piece helps keep the clasp done up. For bracelets you need a clasp which can be done up with one hand and that works with the design of your piece as it is often more visible than a necklace clasp.


Chain.

Heavy chains can be fabricated from wire (this is great soldering practice). Lighter chains come as loose lengths of unfinished chain or as standard lengths (16", 18", 20", 22", 24") complete with clasps. Trace, belcher and snake chains are our favourites for pendants. Larger pendants will need a thicker chain.


If you don't have a specific project to buy materials for then a good starter collection could be...


  • round wire in 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm and 2.5mm

  • square wire 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm and 2.5mm

  • d shape wire in 2mm and 4mm width

  • rectangular wire in 4mm width

  • 0.8mm hard round wire

  • sheet in 0.5mm

  • sheet in 0.8mm

  • ear hooks

  • ear stud pins and scroll backs

  • 5mm jump rings

  • 10mm jump rings

  • finished light chain (trace/belcher/snake) in your ideal length


Happy making and don't forget - if you don't know what you need for a project just get in touch with us, we are always happy to help.

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