Newsletter - January 26, 2012

The Jewelry Crafter

A newsletter for the home jeweler

This newsletter will be published once per month, and will include hints and tips for your jewelry business. Any feedback or comments about the topics presented here are always appreciated. Click here to e-mail us.

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Silver Explained


Mary Harvey

We’ve all worked with it, but how much do you really know about silver? There are many different types of silver, some you’ve heard of, some you may not have. This week, we will discuss the different types of silver.

Fine silver is .999% pure silver. This makes it very soft, almost too soft for everyday jewelry. Fine silver usually has to be combined with another alloy to make it more durable. Due to it’s purity, fine silver does not tarnish.

Probably the best known silver is Sterling silver. Sterling is also known as .925. This is the most popular metal for jewelry makers due to it’s maliability and durability. Sterling is comprised of 92.5% pure sliver and 7.25% copper. Due to the copper content, sterling silver will tarnish over time, or if it’s exposed to certain chemicals, like chlorine. Most of the commercially available jewelry findings are sterling.

Argentium Sterling is registered and patented trade name for a relatively new alloy.  It is comprised of .925 silver, 5.9% copper and 1.6%% germanium. It has the same properties as Sterling, except that, with the addition of germanium, it doesn’t tarnish as easily, and does not develop fire scale while soldering.

Sheffield Plate is produced by fusing layers of sterling to a base metal. The resulting “sandwich” was used to form large pieces, like serving plates and teapots, as it was very cost-effective. The Sheffield plate process dates back to the 1700’s. Sheffield plate is fairly rare today, due to the advent of electroplating. While electroplate give a brilliant shine, Sheffield plate is used when a softer color, more like natural Sterling, is needed.

Silver Plate is a process where a base metal is coated with silver, using electrolysis or electricity. This gives the base metal a very thin coat of silver, which can wear off rather easily. Because of this, most silver-plated items will need additional plating periodically to keep the base metal from showing through.

Bali silver is usually a term to describe beads that are hand made in Bali, Indonesia, with unique designs and intricate detail. Since they have become popular, many other countries have started making “Bali style” beads. True Bali beads (the ones made in Bali), are generally .925 or better. Beads from other countries vary from less than .925 to plated. 

The term “German Silver” is misleading. German silver really isn’t silver at all, but a silvery-white alloy of copper, zinc and nickel. It is also known as “nickel silver”. Many people have allergic reactions to the nickel in German silver, so it isn’t very popular for products worn next to the skin. Any German Silver that’s used for jewelry is usually rhodium plated to help avoid allergic reactions.

As you can see, there are many different types of silver on the market. By knowing the different types, you can answer your customers questions. Being knowledgeable will also increase your credibility with your customers.


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