#1 Silver Jewelry Buyer in Las Vegas and Henderson
What is Silver?
Silver is a precious metal characterized by its white metallic luster. Represented by the chemical symbol Ag (from the Latin word argentum meaning “shiny” or “white”), silver has a high conductivity of heat and electricity and is resistant to oxidation. Its softness makes it very malleable and ductile, but it is harder than gold and softer than copper.
Silver is used throughout history and is most notably seen as currency such as coins. Aside from currency, silver is also seen in jewelry and other objects such as cutlery, which is still widely utilized today for its anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic properties. Most silverware is not made out of pure or fine silver. Rather they are mostly plated over other metals or made out of sterling silver. An example of this is Western concert flutes, usually made out of sterling silver or plated, where the silver is usually electroplated on the item.
In today’s market, silver is mostly cheaper than gold or platinum. This usually leads to false presumptions that it is a less valuable metal. However, silver was historically more valued than gold, which is evident in the silver quantities found in jewelry as it hugely outweighs other precious metals. Its adaptability contributed to many technological advances in the fields of mining and metallurgy as opposed to other metals. Silver has shown its importance to mankind as wars were waged throughout history as economies depended on access to silver deposits as well as its availability.
Presently, silver is the preferred metal for manufacturing relatively cheaper jewelry. Its softness and affordability are why some jewelry manufacturers have become accustomed to harnessing silver in ingenious ways. Others found the metal more fitting in bigger, avant-garde designs, while others prefer smaller collectible charms.
There is good demand and market for silver, as fine silver is very soft and is alloyed usually alloyed with copper to harden it to maintain designs crafted to it. One of its main disadvantages is its easily tarnished presence of hydrogen sulfide and its derivatives. A method in refining pure silver plating called electrolysis is effective in increasing tarnish resistance. Dipping baths that reduce the silver sulfide surface to metallic silver is one of the common solutions in restoring luster in tarnished silver; however, polishing silver with a paste also cleans off a layer of tarnish. The easiest way to remove the sulfide tarnish is by the soaking of silver items in salt and water using an aluminum foil bowl.
Silver Alloys and Purity Test in Jewelry
Knowledge of different metals is important as several different types of silver are available in today’s market. This helps in educating consumers on the different quality standards and alternatives that are available in the industry.
There are many different types of silver available in the market. This is why consumers need to understand that silver in jewelry is usually mixed with other metals, as pure silver is soft and needs other metals to maintain its shape. One of the reasons other than softness, why silver is mixed with other metals, is that it easily rusts. The price of silver varies depending on the ratio of silver to other metals. However, research is continuously being conducted for new methods in improving synthesizing silver.
There are rare fraudulent marketing cases, and one of the easiest ways to identify quality jewelry is through a stamp. A quality stamp is usually engraved somewhere on a lot of finished silver jewelry. These stamps are small, and some might only be seen through magnification. However, stamps are only required when there is an available surface for it to be stamped on. Standards for quality stamps can be seen in the further sections.
Some other alloys or metals are similar to silver, as the color of silver is very much valued. Pieces of jewelry use all different types of metals; that’s why knowing its characteristics can help make decisions when buying.
Wearable silver is always mixed with other metals, most commonly copper, as pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry. The most common of these combinations is called “sterling silver.” Sterling silver is a combination of 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of other metals. However, other combinations exist with different ratios. Sterling silver is usually stamped with 925, or it can be the word “sterling” or “sterling silver” as an indication of its authenticity. The number 925 usually indicates 925 parts silver out of every 1000 parts, or 925 parts of silver to 75 parts of another metal.
Real silver doesn’t have any effect on magnets. That’s why one way to determine silver content is by doing a magnet (preferable a rare-earth neodymium magnet). If it gets attracted to the magnet, then it is not silver, or it may be another metal plated with silver. However, this is not the main basis to determine authenticity as other metals are not magnetic.
Another method is dabbing a small amount of bleach in a hidden part of your item. Silver usually discolors when it comes into contact with bleach. After this, rinse the metal with water and pat dry with a cloth or use a silver dip to try to remove discoloration.
A non-destructive way to test silver is by the use of x-ray testing. The item is usually sent to a laboratory for the test. It is mostly accurate on silver items; however, it can be inaccurate at times due to layered metals and some other types of plating. Another test called assay testing is more accurate than the previous one. However, it is also very destructive. The test requires at least 0.5 grams of metal melted down. This way, alloyed metals, and their ratios can be accurately measured. Neither tests are considered as a practical test if you are looking for a do-it-yourself authentication. Instead, consumers are advised to purchase silver from reputable sources.
Types of Silver
Fine or “Pure” Silver
This is the purest form of silver found in jewelry. These are stamped as “999,” which indicates that the item is 99.9% silver. It can also be labeled as “FS,” which means “fine silver.” This is as true as it gets to elemental silver in jewelry. Fine silver is hypoallergenic and has a very notable white sheen. However, pure silver is soft, and it is easily damaged and will easily lose its shape. Because of its vulnerability, this is best used in jewelry that does not come into contact with many things, such as earrings or pendants, then rings or bracelets.
Sterling silver is the most famous form of silver. This is attributed to its durability and unique luster. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, commonly copper. This is why it is usually stamped as “925”, “925 STG”, “STG,” “STERLING,” or “STER.” However, it is also relatively soft and makes it malleable like fine silver. It is often “plate” with rhodium to make it more durable as its malleability makes it prone to scratches and dents. The rhodium plating and finish help lessen its tarnishing.
Argentium Silver Jewelry
Argentium is another type of silver. It is considered as the “new” sterling silver. It comes in two grades, “932” and “96”. This indicates that Argentium silver can be up to 96% silver. As with sterling silver, it is also mixed with other metals, most commonly germanium and copper. Authentic Argentium silver jewelry is stamped with “Argentium.” Fake ones will not have a stamp on it or is a type of sterling silver. An authentic one is hypoallergenic as well and does not contain nickel. The disadvantage is that Argentium is hard to find and is more costly than other types of silver.
German silver or nickel silver does not actually contain silver despite its name. It is usually a combination of copper, zinc, and nickel to form an alloy that resembles silver. It is used to produce different kinds of products such as hair products, musical instruments, and most popular jewelry items and household goods. Antique jewelry and decorative household items will be most likely made out of nickel silver and are plated with real silver. It is advisable to avoid German silver jewelry altogether to avoid allergic reactions as nickel is a common skin irritant.
Silver-plated is a term used to describe a piece of jewelry that’s made out of another base metal and has a very thin silver plating on its surface. Silver-plated jewelry is usually used in cheap costume jewelry. Silver plating is usually a cheap way to get the appearance of silver; however, the plating can tarnish over time and can expose the base metal underneath. If it doesn’t have a stamp, it is most likely silver-plated.
What is the Best Type of Silver for Jewelry?
The “gold standard” in silver jewelry is the sterling silver. The high percentage of silver that contributes to its beauty. The perfect balance of silver and other metals. Its luster is timeless and trendy.
Sterling silver might be more expensive than other silver types, but it won’t depreciate, and its luster won’t rub away, unlike silver plated jewelry.