Despite being around for thousands of years, silver can be one of the most misunderstood materials used in jewelry. Not only does this metal have a number of benefits and advantages, but some of the information floating around about it are simply untrue. Here are four oft repeated rumors about silver jewelry, demystified.
Pure silver and sterling silver are the same thing. While sterling silver does utilize a higher percentage of pure material (significantly more than other precious metals like gold), pure silver and sterling silver are not one and the same. Sterling silver by definition is an alloy that uses 92.5% of pure silver (by mass) along with 7.5% of an alloying material (usually copper). Like gold, pure silver is generally too naturally soft for use in jewelry without the help of a harder metal to increase its durability for potential daily wear. Sterling silver is marked with a hallmark of 925, while pure silver is be marked with a 999 (and is often referred to as fine silver).
Silver jewelry can easily turn black. While silver jewelry
is not entirely resistant to oxidization, claims about it tarnishing easily are
often exaggerated. Tarnish on silver jewelry usually occurs over time, and can
hasten if it is frequently exposed to certain conditions, like being worn for a
daily showers. However, silver jewelry easily regains its shine using
store-bought products specifically formulated for polishing silver.
Furthermore, a higher quality sterling silver alloy called Argentium silver is quickly disproving many ideas regarding the wear and tear of silver jewelry. Argentium silver employs a small percentage of the metalloid germanium, which makes Argentium silver more tarnish-resistant as well as more durable in general. As Argentium silver jewelry continues to grow in popularity, there is little doubt that the misconceptions about silver’s durability and tarnish-resistance will accordingly diminish.
Silver has always been considered to be a lower quality metal. Not true! In fact, silver was once considered to be second in value only to gold. The Ancient Egyptians equated the sun with gold and the moon with silver, which neatly delineates the complementary yet competitive relationship between the two metals. Along with gold, silver was often used as a currency equivalent throughout time, demonstrating its perceived inherent value. Silver has also long been considered to contain healing properties, and for that reason some of the more health-concerned will only wear silver jewelry.
Silver jewelry is soft because of silver’s malleability. Since most silver jewelry is in fact made from sterling silver, it is not all that soft and easy to dent. Alloying pure silver with other metals maintains silver’s ductility, which is considered to be a plus for jewelry making, particularly for intricate designs. The alloy also provides increased durability and hardness, especially in the case of Argentium silver.
What have you always wondered about silver jewelry?