Buying Silver Jewelry has been written for the discerning shopper to use when buying silver jewelry.  Therefore the objective today is to give a brief education on metals, specifically silver.  We are going to look at the differences in silver, understand basic terminology surrounding silver and, how silver is ranked.  For example, fine silver is 99.9% pure silver with the rest made up of trace amounts of impurities.   In the jewelry world we use the term “fine silver” whereas in the trade commodities arena you will probably hear the term “pure silver.”  Technically we are speaking of the same thing.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is the term you are probably most familiar hearing about.  Sterling silver is an alloy.  An alloy is a combination of two or more metals mixed together.  In the case of sterling silver, we have 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, typically copper.  Copper is usually used because it increases strength and hardness to the silver. To illustrate my point, take a piece of silver jewelry.  Do you see any place where the jewelry has been stamped with the number ”925” (92.5% silver)?  If so, you will know that what you are looking at is truly sterling silver.  You may have purchased sterling silver jewelry in the past and then noticed that it tarnished.  This often leaves the overall piece looking rather dull.  Sterling silver when it comes in contact with sulfur or hydrogen sulfur in the air will tarnish, or to blacken.  Most people believe that the sterling silver oxidizes due to the air but actually it’s the alloy in the sterling silver that causes the oxidation.  The easy fix for a tarnished piece of sterling silver is to go over it lightly with an anti-tarnish cloth.  This will restore the beautiful shine.  Another way to avoid tarnish is to, store the sterling silver jewelry in an airtight plastic bag with an anti-tarnish square.  Anti- tarnish squares are usually 1 x 1 inch and can be found on Amazon.

Argentium Silver

Argentium Silver is another term you might hear bandied around in jewelry circles.  Argentium silver is 93.5% silver and the rest (6.5%) made up of germanium.  According to Wikipedia, germanium is a lustrous, hard, grayish-white metalloid from the carbon group.  Some jewelers prefer Argentium silver, (stamped “.935”) because it doesn’t tarnish as easily as sterling silver and it is considered to be a hypoallergenic metal. Beware, this may be a way a jeweler might raise the overall price on a jewelry item, as it sounds more exotic, hence $$$.

Silver Plate

Sometimes you will see jewelry made with “silver plate”.  This is a process where a very thin layer of silver is deposited or electroplated over a base metal, usually copper or brass.  Silver plate is inexpensive and will not retain its value.  Consequently with time the silver will wear off leaving you looking at the base metal.   This is one metal to avoid when making jewelry purchases.

To sum up today’s blog, when looking to purchase silver jewelry always look to the back of the piece and see if there is a stamp of “999”, “925”, or “935.”  If you don’t see one of these symbols, it would be wise to avoid the purchase.  Finally, be assured that Elementas Jewelry will only use Sterling, Argentium, or Fine Silver in their products.

If you’re buying silver jewelry then check out just some of our silver jewelry here >