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Silver plated beads are cheaper than sterling silver beads, because the base of the bead is a base metal. It has a very thin layer of sterling silver electroplated onto the base metal. The bead looks like silver, but really isn't solid silver. Silver plated beads are wonderful in many projects, but remember the plate can wear off if they are polished to roughly, or they rub against other beads in a design. The depth of the layer of silver is measured in microns, and one micron equals .001 millimeters, so you can get an idea of how thinly the coating is applied. Silver electroplate cannot be sold as sterling silver, and cannot be marked as sterling, either.