Ryr (and list);
There are 2 types of gold filled wire commonly being used.
14KGF 1/20 and 14KGF 1/10. These numbers signify the amount of
14K on the wire. With 1/20, one-twentieth of the weight of the
wire is 14K. With 1/10, twice that amount. 1/20th is approx
75-150 times more gold that vermeil or plate (depends on whose
vermeil or plate, and who you listen to!).
The current process for manufacture is almost identical to the
old RGP (rolled gold plate). We antiquers commonly saw this
marking on railroad retirement watches, some eye glasses and
many types of vintage jewelry. A sheet of pure 14K is rolled
and heat bonded to a core of alloy (usually jewelers brass) The
thickness of the gold is determined by the gauge of the wire,
meeting the above standards of 1/20 or 1/10.
In the vintage world, Rolled Gold Plate and Gold Filled were 2
completely different things. Gold-filled (as the name implied)
meant that a bunch of alloys that looked like gold were thrown
into a pot, a little gold was melted in, and the casting was
formed. It made a material that was anywhere from 1K to 4K (?)
gold. It would NEVER wear through, but because so many alloys
were in direct contact with the skin, vintage gold-filled
jewelry turned many people green and black.
Hence, we wire wrappers spend a huge chunk of our time
explaining to potential customers why they are wrong about gold
filled jewelry “turning”. Standard 1/20th gold filled wire (the
kind you would get from Tripps, RioGrande and many other
suppliers) will NOT turn people green, unless 14K turns them
green. Most suppliers “guarantee” 1/20th GF for a “lifetime of
wear”. THAT DEPENDS UPON THE WEARER (and the jewelry). A
pendant (that is never going to come in contact with anything
but a chain and sweater) will probably last a lifetime (it might
wear through on the inside of the bail, due to the chain, tho).
A ring, worn daily by someone with no “jewelry sense” and acidic
skin could wear thru to the alloy in less than a year. If a
wire-wrapper takes the time and minimal extra expense to “wrap
the shank” of their rings in half round wire (the shank is what
commonly wears through), and it does wear through, the outside
shank wire can be easily replaced.
In the combined 10 years Rick and I have been wire-wrapping,
we’ve had to replace 6 rings and no pendants. All my customers
were informed at purchase that we would be happy to remake their
jewelry for it’s lifetime if the 14K wore off, so I’m pretty
sure there wasn’t a lot more than that.
Yes, 10K, 14K and 18K wire are available in most guages square,
round, and half round. It is incredibly different to work with
than gold filled! Let’s talk annealment. It’s my understanding
that metals can be annealed anywhere from 0-6 numbers hard. Dead
soft (which is 0) is the common annealment for wire to be used
for sculpting. Half hard is the common annealment for
wire-wrapping wire. Some of us, order specially annealed wire
for intricate prong settings and smaller stones. For example,
if I’m setting a 8 mm emerald cut into a ring, I’m going to be
using 24 gauge 4 numbers hard wire. ALL of my prong settings
utilize at least 2 numbers hard wire, no matter what the gauge!
When you use gold filled wires at the stiffer annealments, it is
much sturdier, but much less forgiving. For example, when
you’re bending the prongs on a ring or pendant made from 2
numbers hard 22 gauge square, you get ONE bend. If you rebend
it, it will probably break or at least weaken to the point of
14K wire, is much stiffer. It is extremely difficult to bend
14K wire at 2 numbers hard. In fact 1 number hard is quite
"trying". 14K White Gold wire annealed to #1 hard, is almost
impossible to bend! It would seem to me that 1# hard GF should
be the same as #1 hard 14K, but they are not in reality. I
have asked 2 suppliers about it, and they either don’t know, or
swear it is the same. Also 14K wire is much more forgiving and
malleable (and you don’t have to be as obsessive about “plier
marks” as you can buff out the small ones with no worry about
buffing too deeply into the sheet of 14K on the gold filled).
List members out there, please, please correct me if I’m in
error in any of my statements. I do not desire to be
misinformed, undereducated, or giving out crappy
Wire Wrapping Etcetera