Educate me please - on sterling silver

  1. Through the years I have seen so much sterling silver at all price levels. I do realize that some silver is much better than others. Even in my travels I have been warned where to buy silver and where not too.

    How do you know the good stuff from the cheap stuff? Is there such a difference? What should I look for? It all says 925, but I know there is a difference. You just can't judge by price alone. Can anyone help educate me?
  2. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver by definition, so only true sterling will be stamped 925. There is a difference between sterling silver and lower percentage silver, the color tends to be less rich and the texture is different. Silver plate items shouldn't be stamped, as they're not sterling, so only solid sterling will have the 925, and that's really all you need to look for. :smile:
  3. Then why do some silver necklaces give me a red, itchy rash and some don't? It seems to me to be the quality of the piece-the silver chains I pay more for don't give me a rash-the cheaper ones do. And, they are all stamped 925-am I just nuts?
  4. I hear what you are saying, but many of the higher priced sterling silver pieces seem to be of an exceptional quality. They look brighter, feel nicer, they don't tarnish for a very long time etc. The cheap stuff gets oxidized fast, seems like it is maybe made by used metal that is melted and on and on...Is there such a thing as better quality?
  5. Does cheaper silver pieces have nickel in them? Isn't nickel what people are allergic to? I'm asking because I really do not know.
  6. I took a metal smithing class a while ago. I know that you can't have pure silver because it's way too soft to work with. I think it depends on how they make it, but most sterling silver contains copper.
  7. So-maybe the cheaper silver chains ahve more copper in them and that is what I am allergic to? Even though it still says 925?
  8. I'm not sure if sterling silver contains nickel, but many people are allergic to nickel in jewelry (including me). I know white gold is often times mixed with nickel b/c it is too soft on its own.
  9. THere are several websites that detail the composition of common jewelry metals - it's been a few years since I looked thru them but I remember that there is surprisingly wide variety in compositions. Sterling Silver, 925, must contain 92.5% silver, but the other 7.5% does vary. The 'brightness' you describe can be rhodium plating, which John Hardy pieces feature. This is the same metal which coats almost all 'white gold' and gives that white, bright shine. It wears off over time - years - but a competent jeweler can reapply it for a small expense. The Rhodium (sounds like 'radium') also prevents tarnishing.

    Other variations in appearance can come from the amount of oxidation coating (usually black) that's applied. That's a Yurman special trick. The coating can chip and it does wear away, but it gives the silver an aged look. All silver oxidizes over time, but it can take many years and it will be uneven. Many silver afficienados buy vintage pieces because of the unique oxidation patterns - so if you have a worn piece don't clean it if you want to sell it.

    I've heard some folks swoon over Mexican silver, but my understanding is that you have to be very careful in buying. It's almost all stamped 925, but isn't really. Cheaper metals like copper and tin can be substituted. These are more reactive on skin and can cause green or black marks and/or allergic reactions. I don't think it's possible to have a skin reaction to actual 92.5% sterling silver. I don't think there would be enough copper or tin within the alloy to give you a reaction. But I'm not a dermatologist. I would just be very suspicious of any '925' jewelry that causes a skin reaction. I think it's not correctly marked. There are testing kits available online to test the purity of silver. AND, and this is weird but it works - if you have a sensitive nose, 925 silver has a definate smell. It is distinct and lasts for many years - maybe forever. Smell a piece that you're sure about very closely and deeply. THAT'S the smell of silver. It shouldn't vary if it's 92.5% pure. Silver dealers always smell before they buy. I was skeptical, but it works. I can smell my Yurman bangle now very easily. If Rhodium is applied it will dampen the smell. If you buy 'shiny' silver that you think is rhodium plated - you'll never be sure what's underneath.

    I've been told to stick to vintage Mexican pieces sold by reputable dealers in the US and just steer clear of new pieces in tourist areas in Mexico, including more expense pieces.

    White gold is only about 52.5% gold. The rest is nickel and a few other metals - actually a whole soup of other metals. The rhodium plating is what gives it the whiteness. Unplated white gold is a white-yellow color, that I prefer to the plated shiny white. It's very rich and warm.

    Does that help?
  10. Ah! I had discovered the silver smell myself, when I was cleaning the oxidation off of a sterling chain I own with a soft, dry cloth. I can now smell it very easily, and know my "good" pieces from my "bad."
  11. sure does help! Thanks for posting. :flowers:
  12. Some jewelry makers like me like to buy anti-tanish silver. I have sterling silver wire that is made with Argentium so it won't tarnish. I buy my chains from one supplier because they don't tarnish as fast as regular sterling silver.

    When I started my business last year in May the price of silver was $7/ounce now its like $13/ounce.:shocked:
  13. i don't think its copper, its probably the nickel. I know i cant wear cheaper silver earrings because my ears get infected i can't deal with the nickel in them. i can only wear really good silver or gold (just an exucse to keep shopping for better stuff :lol:)
  14. Oh, and I forgot an obvious factoid. Gold, white or yellow, is marked as: 14k = 585 = 58.5% pure gold (although it can go down to 52.5% and still qualify as 14k)

    18k = 750 = 75% pure gold (and can go down to around 70% to qualify)

    10k is the lowest marker allowed to be called 'solid gold' (in the US). It's 10/24 ths pure gold, or 41.5% pure gold. 24k gold is by definition pure, 100% gold, although it's not recommended in jewelry - it's too soft / malleable. It particularly won't hold stones well in settings. 22k gold is 22/24 parts gold, or about ~92.5% gold. It's used by artisans and bench jewelers, but I've been advised to avoid it to carry stones as well.

    Again, you can imagine that 14k gold at only ~59% gold can take on different tones based on the other ~41% content. Particularly white gold can take on color tones from white to yellow/white. But in the end most white gold is then coated with Rhodium to give it all an even, shiny bright white appearance. The problem, of course, is if it's coated, you'll never know what's underneath. Unlike silver, gold doesn't have a characteristic odor. You really don't know unless you test and kits are available online, although some cause black 'test marks'.
  15. Actually, you can make something with 'pure' (called Fine Silver), as long as you work it ... it then becomes "worked hardened". However, you are right ... it is still softer than .925 (sterling silver), so it would show wear & tear a little more. The Precious Metals Clay (PMC) is only pure (fine) silver, as is the gold version - it's only 24k (that's why it's so bleeding expensive!).

    After you anneal and then put the silver into the pickle, the fine silver rises to the top - that's why it has that very lovely white/silver finish.

    As far as the rashes ... you might just be allergic to anything with silver, and may need to wear either gold or the metal that they use with body piercings (and for the life I me, I can't remember what it's called!).