by Allison Boyer
Silver found in mines is all the same, but pure silver is too soft for many jewelry, flatware and home decor items. Silver is usually combined with an alloy before being crafted into sterling silver jewelry selections, such as silver rings, silver bracelets and a myriad of sterling silver items. As a consumer, learning about the types of silver can help you shop for silver jewelry and other beautiful silver products.
Pure silver: Pure silver, also called fine silver, comes directly from the ground and is not processed or combined with other metals. Although pure silver is very soft and difficult to work with, it has a brilliant shiny appearance. One of the biggest disadvantages to working with pure silver is that it reacts poorly to the environment. Pure silver will quickly tarnish when exposed to ozone, or hydrogen sulfide, which is sulfur in the air. Pure silver is most commonly used to make very fine, intricate pieces of jewelry or to decorate jewelry made of other materials. To be called pure, fine silver has to be at least 99 percent natural silver. Consider a silver ring or silver bracelet with pure silver accents.
Sterling silver: When shopping for silver jewelry and home decor products, you'll likely come across quite a few sterling silver items. Sterling silver is composed of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent other metals. These other metals work as an alloy to make sterling silver jewelry and flatware more durable and less likely to tarnish. Sterling silver has a beautiful appearance that is similar to pure silver. Copper is a common sterling silver alloy. The numbers "925" are often used to denote sterling silver. To be called "sterling," the silver has to be at least 92.5 percent pure. Choose from a variety of beautiful sterling silver jewelry items to add this precious metal to your collection.
German silver: German silver, also known as nickel silver, is popular for jewelry and home items; however, the material does not contain actual silver. Copper, zinc and nickel are mixed together to form various alloys that resemble silver in color. It is used to create a variety of products, from hair accessories to musical instruments. Antique jewelry and decorative household items often have a plating of real silver over the alloy base of nickel silver. German silver contains nickel, which is a common skin irritant. If you are allergic to nickel, avoid German silver jewelry.
Oxidized silver: Oxidized silver is darker than other types of silver, with little to no luster. Oxidized silver is created through a process of controlled oxidation, where the silver is exposed to the environmental factors that cause tarnish. Oxidized silver requires less maintenance than sterling, and further tarnish simply makes the silver more beautiful.
Silver plating: Silverplated items are affordable and offer the beauty of silver in a unique way. Silverplated jewelry and home items are made of a base metal, and authentic silver is added to the surface. To plate an item with silver, the object is electrically charged with a battery to attract silver particles. Silverplated items have the shine and luster of natural silver, are durable and available in a range of prices.