Silver used in jewelry is usually an alloy which means a metal mixture of two or more elements from the periodic table. According to the amount of silver element, silver can be divided into different grades, from .900 to .999. And there're also other variants of silver even though they have silver in its name, the silver content in its weight is little and even none.
Fine .999 Silver
Fine silver, as known as .999 silver, is the closest metal to the pure element silver. which indicates 99.9% purity. The 0.1% remainder comprised of natural trace elements. Comparing to the bright and shining sterling, it looks grayer and slightly dull.
.999 silver has soft texture ,low hardness, easily resulting in dent and scratch. Plus, its high activeness in oxidation would lead to the consequence that the jewelry could easily turn to be tarnished. Therefore, it’s less likely to be widely used in the jewelry making.
Sterling .925 Silver
Sterling silver is the silver we are usually seen in the jewelry store. It is actually the alloy of 92.5% and 7.5% copper, zinc or nickle. The additional metals could enhance the harness, brightness and luster of silver. Therefore, comparing to the 999 silver, sterile silver is tend to be more durable and anti-oxidative so it is not that easily get tarnish. Tarnish is easy to clean with readily available polishing products. 925 silver is harder than 999 silver but it is still soft compared to other metals.925 already become the jewelry quality standard in the US. It is commonly seen in the rest of the world markets as well.
Argentium silver was invented by Peter Johns, a professor working in Art and Design Research Institute, School of Art & Design, Middlesex University in 1998.It is a intensive silver alloy which contains 93.5% or 96% silver and a small amount of Germanium. Germanium , as the remainder in the alloy, gives Argentium silver outstanding qualities such as fire stain resistance, improved durability and also a higher melting point, which turns into a higher annealing temperature and flow point.
Compared to the sterile silver, Argentium has increased tarnish resistance, a whiter colour, antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties and a firestain-free surface. Therefore, its price would higher a lot than traditional sterile silver in no doubt. However, even though Argentium is seven times more tarnish resistant that sterling silver, it would still turn tarnished under the extreme conditions like exposing to chemical-intensive environment, or after long-time wearing.
Coin silver used to be a common alloy in the United States. It is now fairly rare and the name causes quite a bit of confusion. It is actually .900 silver, made from 90% silver and 10% copper. Dating back to the 19th century, the US silver market was lacked of reliable domestic source of silver, so the silversmith had to get the raw materials from melting the coin, to make silver object for their client. That is how the name “ coin silver” was from.
However, right now, in most of the country including US, the coin is no longer containing expensive metals like silver and gold and only comprising of base metals instead. As for the modern collectible coins, it would contain more silver than 90%. Coin silver jewelry that is still on the market will bear a quality stamp of .900. Many of these pieces already become antiques.
Britannia silver contains 95.8% silver and 4.2% copper, slightly softer than sterling silver. It is often used for decorative Britannia silver coins. The durability and price of Sterling Silver have made Britannia silver a less popular option for jewelers and silversmiths today.
Silver-filled is a new layered metal that consists of a layer of 5% or 10% sterling silver physically bonded to a copper-alloy or brass-alloy center. Highest level of silver- filled jewelry is 925/10, indicating that it must have at least 1/10 of its weight in silver, which equals out to 5% silver. The lowest level is 925/20, so when you read that a material is 925/20, it means the material meets the minimum standards for being silver-filled by containing 5% silver.
Silver plated jewelry is coated with a extremely thin layer of silver on the top of a base metal core , commonly copper, brass, white metal, or nickel. It is not the same thing as silver-plated, because it’s content of silver would not over 1%. When the coating of silver flakes or scrapes off, the base metal underneath is revealed.
This word actually a super big misnomer because German Silver is not silver at all! In other words, it does not contain any silver. The fact is it actually is a base metal alloy comprising of 60% copper, 20% nickle and 20% zinc. The only reason that it’s called as silver is its color. It has many other names on the market such as Alpaca silver , Nickle silver or Nickle brass, Maillechort, Argentan, New silver, Albata.
Traditional Tibetan silver is a alloy consisting of 70% of copper and 30% of silver, with an appearance similar to aged silver.
Bali, Thai or Mexican Silver
Even though Bali, Thailand, and Mexico silver are famous for its quality, silver lovers should pay attention to whether there is a quality stamp or hallmark on the surface of silver, in case the accident that ending up trapping into the scam of lower grade silver. For example , most Mexican silver is .925 (92.5 percent) pure. Purity ranges from .925 to .999 and is often stamped as such. It may say, “silver made in Mexico” or “Mexico silver.” Some Mexican silver features an eagle stamped into it with a number designating where in the country it originated.
1. Peter Johns (1997) Firestain Resistant Silver Alloys. Santa Fe Symposium On Jewellery Manufacturing Technology. ISBN 0-931913-25-X