With so many varieties of silver, it can be difficult to tell what’s what. Here’s a quick guide to what’s on the market to help you make more informed decisions when it comes to what you buy.
This is the most common form of silver within the United States, consisting of 92.5% silver with the rest made up in base metals (usually copper in US). The copper makes for a much stronger alloy than pure silver, and allows it to be soldering and patinaed. Sterling silver works perfectly for jewelry as it is strong yet malleable and can be easily brought back to full shine. On jewelry it is usually marked as “925”.
More commonly used in Europe for jewelry, fine silver is pure. It is significantly softer than sterling silver and has a much lower melting point, allowing it to be fused to itself without the need of a solder. It can be annealed to make it harder, but is more susceptible to scratches and dents. Unlike sterling, it will actually get shinier as it is worn – it is the copper in sterling silver that oxidizes with the air and makes it appear darker.
This is any non-precious metal such as nickel, steel, tin or copper. It contains no silver. It is often used as a core in jewelry and coated with silver. Over time, the silver will wear off and cannot be polished back to a shine.
This contains no silver, and is an alloy of zinc, nickel and copper.
Hill Tribe Silver:
Made in Northern Thailand this is a form of sterling silver, with a slightly higher silver content of 98%.
Another form of sterling silver with a 92.5% silver content, alloyed with pewter to give it a grayer finish.
With a silver content varying from 90-92.5%, Indian silver is alloyed with lead and copper to give it a heavier feel.
This simply refers to sterling silver cast into heishi beads or fine tubes. When strung they are meant to resemble silver flowing.
No silver content here, either. Pewter is a mix of various base metals. It is generally quite strong and originally contained lead.
With no silver content, rhodium is a high-shine silver-white element that does not tarnish. It can be found near platinum ores and is very popular for plating jewelry.
This is a silvery element that contains no silver and is a common alloy in other jewelry metals.
This is another form of sterling silver with a higher silver content, usually around 98%.
This is sterling silver, alloyed with cadmium, which is a very lightweight and tarnish-resistant element.