5 Questions Answered About Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is a popular jewelry metal due to many reasons such as durability, cost, and personal style choices. Sterling silver sometimes gets a bad rap because it tarnishes but the reality is that all metals tarnish over time. Sterling will turn towards a coppery tinge or become dark with oxidation but either is easily removed with a simple polishing cloth. Museum wax is also a way to stave off oxidation without harming or changing the metal. It creates a barrier so your skin isn’t in direct contact with the metal. Oils from our bodies and products such as hair spray and lotion are often what kick starts tarnishing.
1. Are sterling silver rings good?
Well, let’s start off by defining “good”. Sterling silver unlike gold doesn’t contain nickel alloys which is a common allergy. Made up of 7.5% copper and 92.5% fine silver, sterling silver is also considered hypoallergenic. Sterling silver is also cheaper than gold so the price points are often more affordable. Sterling silver does scratch more easily compared to 10-18k gold though because those golds contain varying percentages of alloys to increase strength of the metal. All in all, sterling silver is similar to fine silver and 24k gold when it comes to hardness. Whether sterling silver rings are “good” is highly subjective and depends heavily on how you’re defining good.
2. Is sterling silver better than fine silver?
For jewelry purposes, fine silver is softer is softer than sterling silver. The copper alloy in sterling silver provides more strength to the metal than fine silver. Fine silver is best in jewelry pieces that won’t be exposed to heavy wear and tear such as earrings. Sterling silver can be used in more versatile pieces due to its hardness. Sterling silver is 92.5% fine silver so if you’re defining better as value than fine silver is worth more than sterling.
3. Is sterling silver okay for sensitive ears?
As long as you’re purchasing sterling silver from a reputable company then yes, sterling silver is great for sensitive ears. Sterling used to contain small traces of nickel because it was believed that nickel strengthened the silver. However, sterling silver should not contain any nickel but if you’re unsure then reach out and ask the jeweler. Both fine silver and copper are considered hypoallergenic. Copper is an uncommon allergy and usually metals contain nickel are the main culprit such as 10-18k gold, brass, and stainless steel to name a few. Just make sure you keep your earring posts clean with either rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and you should be good to go.
4. Can I wear sterling silver jewelry every day?
Absolutely! Wearing sterling silver every day may cause oxidation to occur at a quicker rate but a polishing cloth (which are under $10) will fix that. Keep your sterling as dry as possible and wipe it down after you wear it to remove your oils or other products that may have gotten on it.
5. Which is better, gold plated or sterling silver?
Depends on what you’re after. Price wise, gold plated is generally cheaper than sterling silver pieces. Gold plated pieces can also contain nickel depending on what the base metal is. When plating metals such as stainless steel, a nickel layer between the steel and plating is necessary. Plating over brass however doesn’t require a nickel layer so it’s always good to know what the base metal is. Longevity wise, sterling silver will likely outlast gold plated pieces. Gold plating is a thin layer of gold that has been applied to a base metal through electrolysis. Over time, the gold plating will wear away and leave the base metal exposed (if your jewelry smells this is likely the culprit). Sterling silver doesn’t have anything to expose since it’s an alloy in itself; there’s nothing to wear away unlike gold plated jewelry.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask a jewelry company about their jewelry. Jewelers take immense pride in their craft and will probably be able to talk your ear off when it comes to the creation process. I love answering questions from customers and friends regarding metal-smithing, gemstones, and anything jewelry related.