The Different Types of Silver Used in Jewelry

Silver has long been connected to jewelry and fine things.  Its been immortalized in song for example the one hit wonder Looking Glass’ song – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl):

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the north of Spain
A locket that bears the name of the man that Brandy loves

So what exactly is fine silver?  There are many types of silver jewelry available in stores. It is important to be familiar with the different types of silver that are used to make jewelry.  Silver that is used in jewelry is usually an alloy. This means that it’s mixed with another metallic element because pure silver is too soft and difficult to work with. Silver jewelry also typically has a stamp on it to identify the type and quality.

And of course the price of the silver is going to impact the cost of the jewelry.  To better understand the different options, here are the different types of silver typically used in jewelry.

Fine .999 Silver

This type of silver is the closest metal to the pure element silver. The .999 stamp we see on some silver jewelry indicates that it is 99.9% pure. The remaining 0.1% is consisted of trace elements of insignificant quantity. Fine silver appears grayer and it’s quite soft and it is easy to be scratched and dented as well. This type of silver is best used for earrings and necklaces rather than rings and bracelets which are often bumped and scratched.

Sterling .925 Silver

This is the most common type of silver. It is the quality standard for jewelry in the United States and other world markets. It is composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals such as copper. These other metals, which work as alloys, make the silver jewelry more durable and prevent it to tarnish easily. Sterling silver is harder than fine silver, but it is still softer compared to other types of metal.

Argentium Silver and Non-Tarnish Alloys

This is a modern type of sterling silver alloy. While sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, Argentium silver on the other hand, contains 93.5% silver. In creating this type of silver, some of the copper from sterling silver is removed and metalloid germanium is added. The element germanium makes the alloy harder and tarnish-resistant. This type of silver is more expensive and is not readily available in markets.

Coin Silver

The silver content of this type is 90% which is 2.5% less than sterling. The remaining 10% is made up of copper. This type of silver is not used in making coins. It was named “coin silver” because it was made from refined scrap coins. Coin silver is typically found in antiques and can occasionally be found in new items. The quality stamp of coin silver is .900.

Silver Filled

A silver filled jewelry is made up of either 5% or 10% sterling silver by weight. It is more of a layered metal than an alloy. This type is new and is not yet standardized in the United States. Silver filled jewelry is not common in the market and there is no approved quality stamp for it yet.

Silver Plated

Silver plated pieces of jewelry are more affordable, and it is has its own look as well. It is made of a base metal where authentic silver is added to its surface. Silver plated jewelry is usually shiny and durable. However, its plating will eventually tarnish because of its exposure to the base metal. This type of silver jewelry does not have a quality stamp.

Nickel Silver

Nickel silver is also known as German silver. In this type, the term silver pertains to the jewelry’s color and not to the content. It is a base metal alloy that is composed of copper mixed with nickel or zinc. It looks like sterling silver, but this type is inexpensive since it does not contain real silver. It is also used to make other products such as hair accessories and musical instruments. Nickel silver jewelry pieces are required to be marked as a nickel alloy because some people are allergic to nickel.

Tibetan or Tribal Silver

Similar to nickel silver, this type does not contain any silver element. It is also made from base metal alloys that makes it look like a real silver jewelry. One needs to be careful in purchasing jewelry with this type of silver because some of them may contain dangerous metals such as lead. On the other hand, Tibetan jewelry pieces are beautiful, and it is bought more because of its design rather than the material it’s made of.

Be sure to carefully check for the proper stamps on any silver jewelry your considering and make sure you know what your buying.  And importantly find jewelry you think is beautiful and you will enjoy!