Monday, January 10, 2011

I thought SILVER was SILVER. Right?

Silver.  One of the Earth's elements.  But what is it? Or more precisely, why does there seem to be so many types of silver?

I'm going to bet, most of you have heard of Sterling Silver.  But do you know what that is?  Sterling silver is an alloy.  A blend of metals, if you will.  I'm not going to detail the entire history of sterling, but in modern times, sterling silver is a term for an alloy of silver (pure) and copper (pure).  The traditional recipe is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper by weight.

Some other "silver" terms include:
Fine Silver
Argentium Silver
German Silver
Thai Silver
Nickel Silver
Alpacca or Alpaca Silver
Tibetan Silver
Hill Tribe Silver or Karen Hill Tribe Silver

These are just a few of the more common "silver" terms!  Are you wondering why I keep putting "silver" in quotes?  Because some of these "silver" terms actually contain 0% elemental silver!  That's right.  They're not silver at all!

Alpaca Silver, Nickel Silver, and German Silver is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc.
Tibetan silver is an alloy of copper, nickel and/or tin.

Thai Silver is generally silver with a purity between sterling (92.5% pure silver) and fine silver (99.9% pure silver). Thai silver, as the name implies, is handmade in Thailand by small groups of silversmiths and craftsmen and each group may use a different alloy recipe.

Hill Tribe Silver or Karen Hill Tribe Silver is also made in Thailand.  However, these silver pieces are handmade specifically by the Karen Hill Tribe people. Most, if not all, Hill Tribe Silver is 99.9% pure silver.

Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver.  Be weary of individuals who use the the term "fine silver" to mean attractive or very thin. When in doubt, ask for clarification!

Argentium Silver is a relatively new silver alloy comprised of silver, copper, and germanium.  The exact alloy recipe is a trade secret. However, according to the Argentium silver website, Argentium silver comes in 93.5% pure silver and 96% pure silver alloys. This new silver alloy is highly tarnish resistant.

I hope you have learned a little about the various terms used to describe silver colored metals.  Just keep in mind, just because the word "silver" is used doesn't necessarily mean it contains elemental silver.

1 comment:

  1. This is great! It does get very confusing for customers, and this reminds me that I'd like to try Argentium.