Is it really silver?
The Internet is stuffed full of people selling silver jewellery, but is it all silver? Hopefully this article will help you identify your fine silver from your fake silver! STERLING SILVER: Sterling Silver or 925 Silver consists of 92.5% Silver and 7.5% copper. The addition of copper makes the otherwise soft pure silver into a harder wearing alloy. The copper element is also what causes the silver to tarnish. Sterling Silver is the most common form of silver in jewellery, and any item weighing over 7.78g must by law be hallmarked at one of the four Assay Offices in the UK if it is to be sold as “silver.” Sterling will be marked as 925.
FINE SILVER: This is 99.9 % pure silver. It is softer than sterling silver, but has the advantage that it does not tarnish in the same way, as it contains no copper. Because of its soft properties it is unsuitable for jewellery that will be subjected to day to day knocks, eg: rings, bangles and cuff links. Fine silver jewellery is often (but not always) made from silver clay. This is a relative newcomer in the jewellery world – precious metal in the form of clay. Pure silver granules are mixed with water and an organic binder to form a clay like substance which can be moulded, rolled, cut out and shaped like modelling clay. This is a much easier way for individuals to make silver jewellery without having to use complicated traditional silversmithing techniques which take many years to master. The clay is dried, then fired using a blowtorch or a kiln, so that the binder burns away and the resulting item is 99.9% pure silver – known as fine silver: this silver is hallmarked as 999 silver. This silver is more suitable for some jewellery items than for others due to the relative softness of fine silver compared to sterling. It is commonly used to make fingerprint or keepsake jewellery.
HILL TRIBE SILVER: An area in Thailand is home to the Hill Tribe silversmiths. These villagers have made intricate silver jewellery for centuries completely by hand using traditional techniques from (96% minimum) silver. It is generally accepted that certified Hill Tribe Silver is at minimum 96% pure silver. Most reputable traders of this silver will be able to certify its authenticity. SILVER PLATED BASE METAL: Base metals can be coated with a thin layer of silver to give a cheaper item of jewellery the appearance of silver. The coating is applied by immersing the base metal in a solution containing silver and passing an electric current through it. The disadvantage is that the silver plating will inevitably wear off. TIBETAN SILVER: Many items being sold as Tibetan Silver are mass produced in India or Nepal and do not contain any actual silver – they are simply base metal with a silver effect finish. Some other items may contain some silver content but can be as low as 1 or 2% silver. Always buy from a reputable seller, and check that their items (if on sale in the UK) over 7.78g are hallmarked. This will give you some reassurance that the seller is genuine. GERMAN SILVER: German Silver is a thin layer of silver electroplated over copper. ALPACA SILVER: Alpaca Silver contains no actual silver! It is an alloy of copper, nickel, zinc and tin. Nickel is a common cause of allergies in jewellery, 10-15% of women are allergic to nickel, and the EU Nickel Directive sets out in law the maximum amount of nickel that is allowable in anything coming into contact with the skin. However because it is easy to buy jewellery and jewellery components from abroad, there is no guarantee that all items for sale in the UK meet these guidelines. NICKEL SILVER: As with alpaca silver, Nickel silver does not contain any silver. Nickel Silver is approximately 60% copper, with 20% of nickel and 20% zinc added. Remember – a genuine seller will never be offended by you asking questions about their products because they have nothing to hide. Always satisfy yourself that you are buying genuine silver before you make an importnat purchase. Related Blogs Hallmarking Argentium Silver