"Dead-Soft" wire or metal is very pliable and can be easily bent into any number of shapes. It will not hold its shape in instances where it would be subject to tension, such as on a clasp. The more you work with dead-soft metal, the harder it becomes. Bonita Bead sells multiple types of Dead Soft wire.
Fine Silver vs. Sterling Silver:
Fine silver is .999 pure silver, the finest you can buy. This is soft, thus it is not usually used for jewelry making, but becuase it is pure, is an excellent metal for enameling and necessary for granulation. To make the silver stronger for jewelry, copper is added - this is Sterling Silver: 92.5% fine silver, 7.5% copper. The mark for Sterling is either "Sterling" or "925". There is no standard mark for fine silver, but it could be marked as "999". Bonita Bead sells both Fine and Sterling Silver wire.
German Metal is cast tin, plated with either 22Kt gold, antigued copper, fine silver or oxidized fine silver, then matted and lacquered to keep the finish. This comes in beads, findings and spacers.
Gold-filled wire or metal is actually gold overlay. A layer of karat gold is heat and pressure bonded to a brass core. The layer of karat gold makes the metal tarnish-resistant, and it should be cared for just like the expensive version. Gold-filled metal should be buffed with a soft, clean cloth (such as flannel) and should be stored in a dry place. Placing tissue paper around your gold-filled metal will minimize exposure to humidity and prevent scratching while it is being stored. Bonita Bead sells multiple types of Gold Filled beads and findings.
"Half-Hard" wire or metal is pliable, but unlike "Dead-Soft", it will maintain an intricate shape under tension.
Gold or silver plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold or silver onto the surface of another metal by chemical or electrochemical means. Gold plating of silver (Vermeil - see below) is used in the manufacture of jewelry. When plating is done on copper or silver, the base metal atoms diffuse into the plated layer, causing slow gradual fading of its color and eventually causing tarnishing of the surface. Body chemistry also plays and important part in the deterioration of plated items.
Precious Metal Clay and Metal Clay
Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Metal Clay are brand names for very similar products, but manufactured by different companies. In general, for the silver form, they are fine silver slivers embedded into a binder that works like clay, but once it is sintered (fired in a kiln), the binder burns out and what remains is the fine silver. These clays come in other metals, too. Although more expensive per ounce than fine silver, one need not know a lot of metalsmithing techniques to make beautiful jewelry with metal clay. Bonita Bead sells and gives classes in PMC and related tools.
Vermeil is gold plated sterling silver or fine silver. It has a richer look than when plating is done on a base metal. Bonita Bead sells Vermeil beads and findings.
Frequent cleaning is recommended to maintain true beauty. Salt water, chlorine in swimming pools, soap and perspiration take their toll on metal jewelry. The best maintenance is to remove your jewelry when swimming in salt water or swimming pools, also remove your jewelry prior to bathing. To keep your metal jewelry clean and free of these elements which oxidze it, wipe carefully with a soft cloth.