Silver is available in myriad forms these days. It is helpful to keep yourself updated about the various types of silver for making informed choices about your purchases. In the following details, you can find information on the different types of silver that are used in manufacturing jewelry worldwide.
Firstly, it is important to understand that silver is alloyed with other metals or elements during the manufacturing of the jewels. There are various reasons for producing different alloys of silver and these are studied in the following details.
Secondly, the quality of the silver can be ascertained through a quality stamp that is viewable on the finished pieces. Some companies indulge in fraudulent markings, but these are rare cases. You need magnifying glasses for observing these minute stamps. It may also be kept in mind that jewels are required to contain stamps only if adequate space is available. Therefore, jewels of small size may remain unstamped even if they are of good quality.
In the following details, you can gather information on the various standards of quality stamps pertaining to silver jewels.
1. Fine (.999)
This is the purest form of silver and comprised of 99.9% of silver. The remainder 0.1% contains traces of other elements. Fine silver is soft; gray in color; has a dull look; its luster is known to be more glass-like than polished sterling silver items. Also, it develops scratches or dents easily. Therefore, they are not commonly used in jewels because they do not wear properly.
However, there are several benefits of using silver. The metal can be cast easily; fuses without soldering; and does not tarnish easily.
As a result of its soft texture, its use in necklaces and earrings is more popular than bracelets and rings that are scratched often. Products of silver clay are forged into fine silver; they have caused a rise in demand for silver jewelry in the United States. Fine silver jewels have stamps of.999 FS or only.999. Also, the Hill Tribe varieties of silver are of.999 quality.
2. Sterling (.925)
Within the United States and other countries worldwide, sterling is the standard quality of jewelry. Sterling silver jewelry contains 92.5 % of silver. Other metals such as nickel and copper constitute the remainder 7.5%.
It is important to add other metals to the alloys for hardening the metal, increasing its durability and making the jewels gleam – all in a bid for enticing the clients.
Mostly, we are familiar with the silver shades of sterling silver. It has a shiny look, but it is susceptible to tarnish. For preserving your jewels in pristine condition for long durations, sterling silver jewels should be polished on a regular basis.
When comparing the hardness of sterling silver and fine silver, the former is found to be harder. However, sterling silver is softer than many of the other metals.
Sterling silver jewels have stamps of.925.
3. Non-Tarnishable Alloys
The non-tarnish varieties of alloys have been introduced recently. Amongst the many brands, Argentium produces these alloys. Normally, they consist of 92.5% silver, but some branded items rate higher in silver content. The rest of the alloys are fabricated using metals such as copper and germanium.
Germanium has the ability to harden the alloy and make them tarnish-resistant. However, non-tarnish alloys are tarnish-able under intense conditions and over a period of time. The good news is that they do not require as much maintenance as sterling silver. Their resistance to tarnish is the primary benefit of these metals.
However, it is also notable that the metal Argentium does not require soldering for its forging. But, there are drawbacks related to Argentium. The metal is costlier and not as readily available as compared to Sterling silver. Also, the metal is not distinguishable from Sterling silver because it bears a stamp of.925. Jewelry producers also have to apply for getting the authority to stamp the Argentium mark on their pieces. Additionally, the stamp is large in size and cannot be used on jewels.
Coin silver was an alloy that was commonly available in the US in the past. Nowadays, it is rarely found because people get confused with its name.
‘Coin silver’ denotes that the silver content is 90% silver; the rest 10% is made of copper. Coins were not manufactured with this metal; rather it was produced from scrap coins during earlier times.
Money coins in several countries do not contain silver, but they are constituted from other cheaper metal varieties. Collectible items or investment items contain high amounts of silver; they bear the relevant markings and are accompanied with legitimate certificates. Coin silver jewels are stamped with.900 seal. Most of these items are antiques.
There are doubts pertaining to jewelry that is promoted as only ‘silver’. It is best to buy jewels that have clear definitions about the quality standards that they conform to. If these markings are absent, the silver alloys do not rate high in quality. It is the norm for jewelry companies to stamp the jewels if space is available or place quality tags on the finished items.
Silver-filled is the term used for a new layering on the jewels when there was an increase in silver rates through the recession period. It cannot be described as an alloy because of the non-uniformity of the metal content in the pieces. Nevertheless, its surface contains sterling silver.
Silver-filled items contain 5-10% of sterling silver and are fused to the brass base. This metal has not been standardized within the United States as it is newly launched. It cannot be cast because it is layered. The silver layering is thicker as compared to silver plating; but, does not rate higher in quality than many silver alloys. Moreover, it does tarnish. They are soldered using precision instruments and by trained professionals. It is not commonly found in the market these days because the price of silver has come down. There are no standards of stamp quality that have been set for these materials as yet.
7. Silver Plating
Silver-plated jewels consist of a thin level of silver on the top and have used in costume jewelry. They contain only a small amount of silver. They are preferred by some people because they are affordable. Nonetheless, they tarnish within a short span of time. They do not bear quality marks, only the logo of the makers.
The name ‘silver’ in ‘nickel silver’ is only for the silver color and not the metal. They are alloys comprised primarily of copper; other metals such as zinc or nickel are also contained. Nickel silver is soft, inexpensive and looks similar to Sterling. These alloys can be soldered but the seams are visible.
Nickel silver is also known as German silver or Alpaca silver. Costume jewelry is made of these alloys. Some people are of the opinion that it should be defined as nickel alloy because several people suffer from allergies when subjected to nickel.
Tribal or Tibetan alloys are also silver in color. They do not contain pure silver and the contents of the alloys are variable. Some varieties also contain toxic metals such as lead that can endanger our lives. Therefore, it is recommended to be precarious when opting for these alloys. However, they can enhance your appearance and should be chosen for their designs and not value for money.
10. Mexican, Thai, and Bali
Countries such as Mexico, Thailand, and Bali produce silver in large amounts. However, you should check the quality stamps before purchasing them. They are also known to produce low-grade alloys. The name of the country places no guarantee about the quality of the items.
Testing the Quality of Silver
The amount of silver in alloys can be determined by conducting 2 tests.
Where X-Ray testing is concerned, it is non-destructive, requires costly equipment and has to be performed in a laboratory. The results are only moderately accurate. Precise results are not possible because of the metal layers and plating.
Assay testing is recognized as the optimum test for learning about the silver content in the alloys. It is destructive and requires 0.5 grams of the metal to be melted for determining the ratio of the alloys. The tests are accurate when carried out in a laboratory by skilled workers.
Both these tests do not serve as a suitable option for customers seeking to conduct a test at home. It is advised to always approach renowned dealers that are honest in declaring the materials that are used in the jewels. Quality seals are also handy for learning about the metals and elements that are inbuilt.