The Different Types of Silver Used in Jewelry: A Detailed Guide
The global market for jewelry is expected to grow to $480.5 billion by 2025. Most of the world’s most valuable jewelry contains precious metals, including silver, gold, diamonds, sapphire, and platinum. Copper, iron, and lead are other popular metals used for making popular jewelry items.
Since its discovery over six millennia ago, silver has always commanded great fascination. It’s the reason why this precious material is among the most highly desired when it comes to the manufacture of jewelry. Through the ages, jewelers have used different types of silver to create unique pieces whose allure never fades.
But why exactly do people love silver for jewelry? What silver types are the most popular today? Once you’ve invested in silver jewelry, what can you do to keep it in mint shape for ages?
These are some of the issues we discuss in this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to learn more.
What Makes Silver So Desirable?
Fashion lovers have no shortage of options when it comes to jewelry. One thing that’s for sure, however, is that silver is highly preferred compared to most other materials for jewelry. Below, we outline three reasons why.
Silver’s flexibility makes it possible for jewelers to utilize it for the production of numerous types of items, including silver rings, necklaces, chains, bracelets, and so on.
Moreover, silver jewelry is popular among people of all ages and genders. The jewelry also works well with different complexions and fashion styles.
Precious metals generally tend to last remarkably long, and silver is no exception. In fact, silver is a harder metal than gold and can withstand wear and tear for much longer. Once you invest in silver jewelry, you can thus expect to hold onto it for generations.
Fashion trends change rapidly, and jewelry that was hot two years ago may seem ancient today. Interestingly, silver never goes out of trend. Even if the design does change, silver will always be at the center of the trend.
That’s a highly desirable trait, given that high-end silver jewelry doesn’t come cheap. The last thing you want is to spend a fortune on an accessory that you can’t wear next year.
Fashion lovers who allergic to certain types of metal can always opt for sterling silver as it’s hypoallergenic. Once you invest in this jewelry, you don’t need to worry about your skin getting irritated.
Unlike some materials that scratch, tarnish, or rust easily, silver remains in great shape with simple maintenance. All you need is to wipe it clean with a piece of cloth, and the jewelry shines as it did before.
We’ll discuss a few other simple silver jewelry maintenance tips later in this guide.
With all the remarkable qualities that silver has, it may surprise you to know that you don’t need to dent your bank to afford it. Silver jewelry is usually less costly than diamonds and gold. That, however, doesn’t mean that silver is less elegant.
Types of Silver Used in Jewelry
For the uninitiated, all silver jewelry is essentially the same. The truth, however, is that there are many different types of silver, from fine silver to silver made using different types of alloy.
Below, we take a closer look at the types of silver you can find in today’s jewelry market.
Also known as pure silver, fine silver is the closest you can get to the metal in its purest form in different types of jewelry. Fine silver consists of 99.9% silver. The remaining 0.1% is made of other elements.
Fine silver is typically white and lustrous and can be fashioned into delicate, stunning pieces of jewelry. Since silver on its own does not cause allergies, jewelry made from fine silver is hypoallergenic.
Perhaps the main drawback of fine silver is that it scratches more easily compared to other types of silver. Therefore, the metal is only recommended for jewelry that’s worn on low impact areas such as earrings and pendants.
For centuries, sterling silver has been the most popular silver alloy the world over. The material is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, creating a much more durable and wearable metal.
Sterling silver rings for women and men are among the most sought-after pieces of jewelry, thanks to the material’s lustrous and reflective appearance. The material is also widely used in other types of jewelry, such as pendants, chains, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and many more.
High-end sterling silver is sometimes rhodium plated to improve the brilliance, whiteness, and durability of the material. Generally, sterling silver is hypoallergenic except for rare cases where there are traces of nickel that may cause skin irritations.
One of the drawbacks of sterling silver jewelry is that it can tarnish easily. With time, the metal changes color and darkens due to the oxidation of the copper content in the alloy. The good news is that cleaning off this tarnish is easy.
Argentium Silver is a brand of silver alloys that’s more tarnish-resistant and durable than sterling silver. This type of silver contains a higher content of pure silver than sterling silver. The alloy is available in two silver grades: 93.2% or 96% purity.
Argentium Silver is alloyed with germanium and copper, making the material tougher, more tarnish-resistant, and easier to maintain. The material is hypoallergenic as it does not contain any silver.
Because Argentium Silver is a brand, only jewelers who have been authorized can use the Argentium stamp. The stamp features a flying unicorn.
Due to its many impressive features, Argentium silver costs more than most other silver alloys.
Silver-plated material is a base material that has been coated with a thin layer of silver. In this case, the amount of silver used is so little that it’s almost negligible.
Silver-plated material is ideal for use in low-cost costume jewelry. The jewelry is usually not durable. With time, the silver plating wears out or flakes off, exposing the base material underneath.
Silver-plated material isn’t hypoallergenic.
Silver filled is between silver plated and sterling silver in terms of value. Unlike the term suggests, silver filled isn’t an alloy. Rather, it is a type of plating that has a heavier layer of silver.
Silver filled metal has at least 5% silver that’s bonded onto the base metal. It’s a fairly new variety of silver, having entered the market in the last decade as silver prices started to surge due to the great recession. Now that silver prices have dropped, silver-filled metal is no longer easy to find.
Silver filled jewelry is remarkably elegant. It’s also more affordable than sterling silver. However, it tarnishes rather easily and is thus difficult to maintain.
Coin silver was once the most widely used silver alloy in the United States before sterling silver overtook it. This material contains 90% silver and 10% copper. In other words, the material is similar to sterling silver, with the difference being the amount of pure silver contained in each.
Coin silver gets its name from the fact that it was initially made by recycling old coins that contained silver. Jewelry made using this rare alloy is usually durable and tarnish resistant.
Technically, nickel silver isn’t silver at all. The word silver is used to refer to the material’s silver-like color. The alloy consists of 60% copper, 20% zinc, and 20% nickel.
Nickel silver can be quite bright and lustrous, just like sterling silver. The alloy is easy to craft and shape into elaborate designs.
However, this nickel silver is not hypoallergenic. If your skin is sensitive to metal allergies, you should generally avoid nickel silver jewelry.
Silver Maintenance Tips
Once you’ve invested in silver jewelry, you want to do your best to keep it in top shape for as long as possible. Generally, silver jewelry isn’t too demanding when it comes to maintenance. Below are a few suggestions on how to care for your precious investment.
Keep It Polished
Silver jewelry needs regular polishing to preserve its attractive shine. Use a soft, non-abrasive cleaning cloth and lukewarm water. Brush the jewelry clean and rinse it in clean water.
Avoid Exposing Jewelry to Chemicals
Exposing your silver jewelry to harsh chemicals can significantly alter its appearance over time. Avoid entering pools, spas, and hot tubs with your silver jewelry on as these harsh chemicals are found in such environments.
Store Your Jewelry Well
When not wearing your jewelry, store it in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing your jewelry to direct sunlight at all costs. Invest in a zip-lock bag or cloth pouch where you can keep your jewelry to avoid scratching and tarnishing.
Get the Right Silver
As you can see, there are many different types of silver that you can opt for when you’re shopping for your favorite jewelry. Knowing the qualities of each of these materials can help you make an informed purchasing decision.
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