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All you need to know about different silvers used in jewellery manufacturing.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what “Silver” means when you are buying a piece of jewellery. At Original Strands I have always used Sterling Silver. Here are the different silvers you may encounter when buying a piece of jewellery.


Sterling silver is the most well known silver alloy and has been used for centuries. It’s the standard silver alloy in most parts of the world. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver combined with 7.5% copper to create a durable, more wearable metal. It is generally hypoallergenic.

Sterling silver is lustrous and reflective, but it’s known for tarnishing easily. Over time, sterling silver will change color and darken as it oxidizes. This is because of the copper content in the alloy. However, it’s generally easy to clean this tarnish off and in some cases, jewelers use this tarnish to accentuate patterns and designs. Some jewellers use the oxidation process as part of their designs.

The most common mark for sterling silver is .925, .925 STG while vintage pieces often feature the older marks: STG, STERLING or STER.

High quality sterling silver jewelry is sometimes rhodium plated to enhance the whiteness, brilliance and durability of the metal. This adds value to the piece and prevents tarnishing.

Fine silver.

This is the purest form of silver, with 99.9% silver content. It is lustrous, white, and hypoallergenic, but also very soft and prone to scratches and dents. It is not very suitable for jewelry that is worn frequently or exposed to high wear and tear so tends to be used for low impact wear such as earrings or pendants.. Fine silver is usually marked with a stamp of .999

Argentium silver.

This is a brand of modern silver alloys created to be more durable and tarnish resistant than sterling silver. It’s the 21st century version of sterling silver.

Argentium silver is more pure silver than sterling and is available in two grades: 93.2% or 96% purity.  This is alloyed with copper and germanium which makes the metal harder, more resistant to tarnish, easier to clean and easy to maintain.

Because this is a brand, only authorized jewelers can use the Argentium stamp, which features a flying unicorn. Argenitum silver is nickel free and hypoallergenic but it also costs more than most other silver alloys.

Britannia silver

This is a type of silver alloy that has a higher purity than sterling silver, with 95.8% silver and 4.2% copper. It was originally used for minting coins in Britain, but it is also used for making jewelry and other items. Britannia silver is brighter and whiter than sterling silver, but it is also softer and more prone to scratches.

European silver

This is a type of silver alloy that has a similar purity to sterling silver, but with different proportions of metals. It is slightly harder and darker than sterling silver. It is mainly used for making jewelry and other items in Europe, especially in Germany and France. European silver may have different stamps depending on the country of origin.

Silver plated jewellery

Like gold plated jewelry, silver plated simply means that a very thin layer of silver has been coated over a base metal. The amount of silver used in plating is so small that it’s almost negligible. It’s perfect for the use in inexpensive costume jewelry but isn’t long-lasting or very durable.

Over time, the silver plating will flake off or wear out, exposing the metal beneath. Silver plated jewelry isn’t hypoallergenic, doesn’t have a hallmark because it’s just costume jewelry and has a short life.

Nickel silver jewellery

Typically used in costume jewelry, nickel silver is not actually silver at all. In fact, the word silver here simply refers to its silver-like color and has nothing to do with the metals in its composition.

Most people tend to think nickel silver is a silver alloy but in fact, it contains 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. It can be lustrous and bright and very similar inappearance to sterling silver but is, in fact, a nickel alloy.

Nickel silver is easy to shape and craft into elaborate designs. However, it’s not hypoallergenic and should be avoided if you’re sensitive to metal allergies

It is always good to know what you are purchasing and I know I’m biased, but handmade sterling jewellery will bring a lifetime of happiness! 



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