Leap of Faith
So, I decided to look into Silver Fill as an alternative to sterling silver, at least in chainmaille where forging is not an issue. I had heard from several of my trusted jump ring suppliers that Silver Fill is a viable alternative to sterling silver and is hands down superior to silver plated in terms of durability. Plating is merely a very (VERY) thin coating of silver over a base metal. On the other hand, Silver Fill starts with a thin tube of silver which is then filled with copper. The ammount of silver in Silver Fill is 10% of total weight -- this compares favorably to the ammount of 14k gold in Gold Fill which is only 5% of total weight.
I tried Silver Fill on a small scale, using a ringpack from Chainweavers, ( http://chainweavers.com/ ) for use in weaving their beautiful "Waterfall" earrings. I found the jump rings beautiful and easy to work with. It seemed to me that the Silver Fill jumps rings have less "spring-back" than the Argentium sterling silver jump rings I am used to working with. So closures tend to stay closed which I think is a very good thing.
I certainly will consider using more Silver Fill jump rings in my chainmaille. There will be some transition issues. For instance, Silver Fill and sterling silver jump rings must not be used together in a piece -- but I already segregate Argentium sterling and regular sterling jump rings. Also, the Silver Fill must be be tagged as such, so that customers know what they are getting. However, I already mark Gold Fill as such (not that I have any pieces that are gold. LOL) But, I think it's worth sorting these things out.