What Are the Different Types of Silver Used In Jewelry?
Do you know about the different types of silver used for jewelry making? Most people have heard of only one type, and that is sterling silver. However, contrary to popular belief, jewelers use more than one type of silver for creating exquisite jewelry pieces.
Let’s learn more about the most common types of silver used to make jewelry across the world:
Fine .999 Silver
Fine .999 silver is the closest in composition to real silver. It indicates 99.9% purity with 0.1% trace elements. In comparison to sterling silver, fine silver has more luster. Since silver is a soft metal, it is prone to scratches, dents, and changes in appearance. Therefore, using fine .999 silver is not suitable for jewelry-making due to its short lifespan. However, jewelers use the soft metal for designing necklaces and earrings and not bracelets and rings as they can easily scratch.
Coin silver is no longer the most common alloy used in the United States and you will rarely find jewelers using it. It contains .900 silver or 90% silver and 10% copper. Surprisingly, coin silver is not used to make coins. The story behind how it got its name is that manufacturers created refined scrap coins using it.
Coins do not contain any traces of silver, but are made of durable and affordable base metals. But, you can find collectible silver coins that comprise mostly silver. When you buy these coins, you will receive a certificate of authenticity with them. If you are interested in buying coin silver jewelry, make sure it has a quality stamp of .900 to ensure its authenticity.
Sterling .925 Silver
In the United States, Europe, as well as other parts of the world, sterling .925 silver is recognized as the quality standard to use for jewelry-making. Jewelers add other metals to sterling silver to increase the alloy’s hardness, durability, and improve color.
Sterling silver has a bright and shiny appearance. Even though it can tarnish, you can prevent this by cleaning and maintaining it with silver polishing cleaners. You can also take it to your local jewelry for cleaning and polishing.
A genuine sterling silver jewelry piece features .925 or 925 STG, a quality stamp. Jewelers create high-end sterling silver pieces by using rhodium for finishing. This is more costly, but customers and fashion designs often prefer this over the one without rhodium finish.
Argentium Silver and Non-Tarnish Silver Alloys
Non-tarnish alloys contain a minimum of 92.5% silver with some including more silver. It may also contain other alloys, such as germanium, which helps enhance its hardness and reduces its risk of becoming tarnished. However, under extreme conditions, it can still tarnish over time.
The upside is that non-tarnish alloys need minimal maintenance and care, especially compared to sterling silver. The downside is that it is costly. Argentium silver is more expensive than sterling silver and is also difficult to find. Since both Argentium and sterling silver have the .925 quality stamp on them, telling them apart is difficult.
Jewelers who want to use the Argentium (R) quality stamp on their jewelry pieces will need to submit an application for approval. For most jewelry pieces, this type of silver is too large and impractical for use.
Image Title: Silver Wedding Bands
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Image Description: Silver wedding rings with a twisted design.
You will find many jewelry pieces labeled as only silver at jewelry stores, but are they really silver? All silver jewelry pieces in the market need to have a quality stamp on them. When you are buying jewelry labeled as just silver, there is a high chance of them not containing any silver alloy. Legally, jewelers need to use a stamp or tag to indicate its quality.
Most of the time, silver jewelry is made up of low quality brass with a thin silver coating on top. The coating may fade and make the jewelry look cheap.
Silver-plated is a base metal product with a thin plating silver layer added on the surface. Jewelry labeled as dined silver-plated contains a very small percentage of silver. Silver-plated jewelry is affordable, but it can tarnish and wear off easily. It is costume jewelry, which means that jewelers do not need to add a quality stamp to it.
Nickel silver is the metal’s color and not the silver content found in it. Made of copper with zinc and/or zinc, it is affordable. It looks like sterling silver, but does not have silver in it. It is used in costume jewelry. However, it should be labeled with a nickel alloy stamp because some people may be allergic to nickel.
Bali, Thai, or Mexican Silver
Bali, Thai, or Mexican silver is not marked with a .925 quality stamp, but it should be. Several low-grade silver alloys come from Bali, Thailand, and Mexico. Buying jewelry from these countries is a risk because there is no guarantee of quality or if it even contains any silver content. For this reason, you should always buy them from reputable manufacturers instead of buying them from stores on cruise ships, street corners, and bargain websites and stores.
Tibetan or Tribal Silver
Tibetan or tribal silver refers to a base metal alloy that looks like silver. Traces of silver content found in it may vary. In fact, some may not even contain any silver. Since Tibetan silver comes from an exotic location, it might contain high levels of dangerous metals like lead. So, keep it away from children.
Learning about the different types of silver sold in the market will help you make better choices when you are buying silver jewelry. If you are in a foreign country, you will know what questions to ask the seller and what to look for to determine the quality of the silver.