If you’re drawn to the cool shine of silver jewelry, it’s likely that you know that sterling silver is one of the most common types of silver. You might even know what markings to look for to distinguish it from other silver types. But what other kinds of silver are out there? And what are the Common Types of Silver Used in Jewelry making?
In the same way that 24 karat (24k) gold is the purest, most expensive, and rarest form of gold, it’s rare to find pure silver used in jewelry pieces. At the other end of the scale, some silver types contain next to no silver content, even though their names might suggest otherwise.
Keep reading to find out all the silver options available to you, whether you’re looking for your next forever piece or some fun costume jewelry.
As pure as it gets when it comes to silver, fine .999 silver indicates 99.9 percent purity. The remaining 0.1 percent includes insignificant trace elements.
‘Pure’ silver might sound like one of the most attractive silver options for buyers. But manufacturers have long since realized that fine silver is too soft and prone to scratching and denting. This makes it far from the best silver jewelry material around. What’s more, fine silver appears dull compared to bright and shiny sterling silver.
Since pieces made from .999 silver don’t hold up well over time, fine silver is nowhere near as common as sterling silver. That said, while it’s rare to find rings and bracelets made from fine silver due to the wear they can endure, some manufacturers use fine silver for earrings and necklaces.
Of all the different silver types, sterling silver is by far the most common and most recognizable, with the .925 quality stamp a well-known symbol for anyone on the lookout for the best silver pieces from sellers like Dreamland Jewelry.
The .925 refers to the 92.5 percent silver in this alloy. The remaining 7.5 percent is usually copper, although some sterling silver contains nickel too. Combining silver with these other metals adds durability, luster, and extra strength. This makes sterling silver a lot more resilient and shinier than fine silver, if still quite soft compared to other metals.
But, sterling silver’s pliability can be an advantage for jewelry designers as it allows them to create intricate pieces that are classic and wearable as well as unique.
Non-Tarnish Silver Alloys
Non-tarnish alloys are relatively new kinds of silver used in jewelry, containing at least 92.5 percent silver, some copper, and the element germanium. Although there are a variety of manufacturers, the leading brand name Argentium is often used to refer to all non-tarnish alloys.
Because of the inclusion of germanium, non-tarnish silver alloys such as Argentium are harder and more resistant to tarnishing than sterling silver. However, non-tarnish silver alloys are also a lot more expensive than sterling silver and far less available.
It’s also difficult to distinguish non-silver alloys from sterling silver as they still have a .925 quality stamp. And, while manufacturers can go through a process to use the Argentium® mark, the large stamp makes this impractical for most pieces of jewelry.
The term ‘coin silver’ is a confusing one as this silver alloy was not used to make coins. Although, the name comes from the fact that at one time, manufacturers used coin scraps to make this type of silver used in jewelry. Nowadays, coins don’t contain any silver. Instead, they’re made from more inexpensive alloys such as cupronickel and nickel-plated steel.
The technical term for this once common but now rare alloy is .900 silver, made up of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Since this silver used in jewelry isn’t very typical now, any coin silver jewelry still on the market is a rare antique, distinguishable by a .900 quality stamp.
Silver-plated jewelry is made from a base metal product covered with a thin silver layer, giving the impression of the silver used in jewelry with a much lower manufacturing cost.
in most cases, the true silver content of silver-plated jewelry is a fraction of a percent. As a result, silver-plated jewelry is best suited to inexpensive costume jewelry as the plating will soon tarnish and wear off, exposing the base metal underneath.
Despite its name, this base metal alloy is silver in color only. Nickel silver is a combination of copper, nickel, and zinc, with zero silver content.
This kind of silver-look metal allows costume jewelry manufacturers to produce inexpensive silver options such as chandelier earrings, chunky chains, cocktail rings, and bangles. But, since many people are allergic to nickel, it’s vital that costume jewelry made from nickel silver states that it is a nickel alloy.
Also called tribal silver, the exact contents of this type of silver can vary a great deal. Like nickel silver, Tibetan silver can often contain no silver whatsoever, or it may contain a small amount. Some Tibetan silver imported from certain areas may even contain dangerous metals such as lead. This makes Tibetan silver one of the main kinds of silver to avoid when buying jewelry for face and body piercings.
That said, tribal silver jewelry can be beautiful and very original. So, if you’re shopping for a unique and ornate necklace, cuff, or another non-penetrative item of jewelry, then you might find the perfect piece made from Tibetan silver.
Common Types of Silver Used in Jewelry
While they say all that glitters isn’t gold, you could also say that all that shines isn’t silver.
But, with this list to guide you, it should be easier to recognize the most common types of silver used in jewelry, as well as how to identify base metal alloys with little to no silver content, despite their misleading names.
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