Gold and silver are the most well known precious metals.
They have been used as money for centuries.
From the dynasties of China to empires of Rome, many have used these metals for trading and storing wealth.
Even today, central banks hold gold and silver bullion as reserves.
These are mainly in large bar forms; there are coins and rounds produced by mints worldwide, for solo investors.
Even if hundreds of years have passed, these two metals do continue to be part of our lives.
Now, let’s take a closer look at silver and its different alloys used in jewelry.
What is Silver?
Silver is a precious metal. Its atomic number is 47.
Silver’s symbol is Ag. It’s the abbreviation of the Latin word Argentum.
It has a very long history in monetary use.
Such that, even today, in many languages the word silver means “money” , such as in French.
Moreover, there is a country named after silver: Argentina!
This metal has exceptional properties: it has very high electric and heat conductivity.
We could very well use silver in all our electric wires instead of copper but that would be very, very expensive.
Silver is also very reflective, which explains why it is used as mirror coating.
Silver is used heavily in our modern life.
Such that, just like oil, had silver disappeared, life could stop!
Why? Silver is used in very little amounts in electronics, biomedicine, bullion, telecom and jewelry.
And, it is very hard to recycle these small amounts.
In this article, we’ll limit our scope with jewelry.
What is Sterling Silver?
Silver is great: it is light and has a beautiful lustrous color.
However, pure silver is too soft for jewelry.
100% fine silver is not hard enough for long term usage.
Thus, we use harder and more durable silver alloys in jewelry.
Probably, the most popular of these is sterling silver.
Sterling silver is 92,5% silver and the remaining 7,5% comes from other metals.
The latter part is generally copper.
The addition of other metals makes sterling silver a much better material for jewelry.
Sterling silver is also known as 925 Silver, .925 Silver and 92,5% Silver.
What is Tarnish?
Tarnish is the thin blackish layer that forms on silver and some other metals.
This phenomenon is mainly due to humidity, water, oxygen interacting with the metals.
Unfortunately, copper’s presence quickens this result.
One thing to note is, tarnish does not eat up the metal like rust: it remains on the surface.
In outdoor cases, such as in brass sculptures, tarnish forms a layer called patina, which protects the art piece.
This is desirable as it increases the sculptures life and protects it from outside effects.
But, in jewelry, anything that diminishes silver’s bling is not accepted.
What is Argentium Silver?
Sterling silver is very widely used in jewelry.
It is so popular that it is practically impossible to imagine a woman without a sterling silver necklace or bracelet.
Nevertheless, it does tarnish and lose its shine.
It would be wonderful to have a silver alloy which exhibits similar luster but is more resistant to tarnish.
Enter Argentium silver.
This greyish-white alloy is also used in jewelry and brings more resistance to tarnish.
This means brighter and shinier days for silver jewelry.
Actually, in its composition, it includes a higher silver percentage than sterling.
The most common Argentium silver types are 935 and 960 Argentium, which have 93,5% and 96% silver respectively.
What makes the difference between argentium silver and sterling silver?
The special ingredient is germanium.
Argentium silver alloys contain less than 1% of germanium.
This addition makes the alloy much more resistant to tarnish and offers more shiny days.
What is 825/835/850 Silver?
825, 835 or 850 Silver denote alloys with a silver percentage of 82,5%, 83,5% and 85% respectively.
These are 3 of the silver alloys used in jewelry and silverware, although much less popular than sterling silver.
If you are planning to buy a new jewelry piece for yourself or as a gift, you can be sure there is your dream silver jewelry waiting for you.
You may deal with a little cleaning every now and then, but it will have a distinct shine like no other!