Back a lot of years ago when I was transitioning from silver to
gold, I frequently made bezel cups for cabs using 22k bezel wire
soldered to a sterling silver backing. I chose this method when the
stones in the design were not particularly costly but were medium to
largish in size. It seemed wasteful to use a lot of gold on the back
of such a piece where it would never be seen, and I rarely had a
customer balk when I explained the metal composition of the item.
Eventually though, I became so comfortable with gold that I
transitioned completely (and cost be damned :-), though I sawed out
the backs where possible and recycled the gold. But it’s a different
market altogether now with gold at mid $500 an ounce and perhaps
The other day I completed a piece that included a psilomelane and
two turquoise cabs. For the first time in ages, I again used 22k
bezel wire on sterling silver sheet. I just couldn’t bring myself to
use gold sheet (it would have been 14k) for the backing, not when the
piece would measure 1 1/2" wide and an inch high.
Yesterday morning, I had to order more gold and it had been a while!
Even though I knew the price of gold, the totals of the items I was
ordering were shocking and I was about to switch out some of the 14k
sheet for sterling sheet when it occurred to me to ask the price of a
comparable amount of 10k. The 14k gold sheet was $393.30; the same
thing in 10k was $256.20. That’s a HUGE difference. I ordered the 10k
plus a much smaller piece of the 14k. (And, yes, I also ordered a 10k
stamp. But note that I’m not heading towards a discussion of how to
deal with the quality stamping question :-).)
So here (at last!) is the issue: Which is the best way to go in the
situation I have described – sterling or 10k? I will continue to
use 22k bezel wire and 14/18k for other visible design elements (as I
have done previously). And I will continue to make all gold pieces
when the stones and design warrant it. But when they don’t, I need to
save some bucks.
I’d prefer to use the 10k since it is yellow, after all, and it’s
still gold (of a sort). Then again, even though it’s 10k, it’s still
a lot more expensive than sterling. Also, I’m wondering if customers
might actually think of 10k gold as an inferior metal, where they
would accept sterling silver more readily.