All you need to know about silver
Did you know?
Although silver plays second fiddle to gold, silver has many uses. It is the best reflector of light so is used to make mirrors; it is the best thermal conductor so is used in your rear windscreen to defrost ice; it is the best electric conductor of the elements so is used for electrical contacts; it is also used in dentistry, solder and brazing alloys, batteries and even in the fingers of gloves so you can use them with your touch phone! It can be drawn into wire or beaten into sheets making it perfect for jewellery making!
Where does silver come from?
It is believed that silver was one of the first 5 metals to be discovered around 5000BC! It can exist in its native state. In other words, nuggets or crystals of pure silver exist in nature but it also occurs as a natural alloy with gold (called electrum) and commonly occurs in copper, lead, and zinc ores so it is usually extracted as a bi product when mining for these metals. The biggest producers today are Mexico and Peru followed by N. America, Russia and Australia.
What is sterling silver?
Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. While beautiful in this form it’s generally too soft and malleable for uses such as cutlery, jewellery and giftware so it is mixed with 7.5% copper. This has the advantage of making the silver harder, and more durable without compromising on colour but the downside of this is that the added copper will cause it to tarnish, with the metal turning dark brown or black over time, especially in humid conditions. However it is easy to clean and beneath the tarnish your sterling silver will be in great condition and won’t rust.
What are the different silver finishes?
There are several different finishes for silver, dependant on the use or just the preference of the designer. Some of the most popular finishes are:
- Polished – Just as it sounds the silver is polished until you can see your reflection in it. It is beautiful but the downside is that is shows scratches very easily
- Satin – This has a smooth finish to the touch but it is not reflective – it’s like a mirror that has got misted up!
- Brushed – A tool is used to polish the metal that leaves small lines, creating a textured finish, dull instead of shiny, deflecting light rather than reflecting it.
- Hammered – Literally ‘hammered’ to produce ‘dimples’ and a satin finish, popular with many designers of jewellery and decorative pieces for the home.
- Oxidised – A chemical process is applied to the silver to darken the metal
Which is better, silver or gold?
While gold is a beautiful metal without doubt, it is also up to an incredible 75 times more expensive than silver which often puts it out of our reach. Like gold however silver will maintain and even possibly increase in value and even those with sensitive skins are unlikely to have an adverse reaction to it. Its use in coinage, luxury homewares, prestigious trophies, gifts for milestones etc ensures it remains a symbol of high status.
Have you considered vermeil?
If you feel more comfortable wearing gold (and for some people’s skin tone it can work better) then try vermeil. This is a process by which sterling silver is heavily plated in gold which produces excellent quality pieces that will stand the test of time at a much lower price than gold alone. Some jewellery designers actually plate their sterling silver designs in white gold to prevent tarnishing.
An excellent choice
With so many benefits you really can’t go wrong and with so many wonderful designers working with sterling silver you can be sure of adding a touch of class to your jewellery collection.