Many times since I started making jewelry I have been asked if my silver plated pieces were made with real silver or if the silver pieces were really made with silver. I even heard people saying that silver does not tarnish and it does not turn green…WRONG!!!…Silver it does tarnish (it is due to a chemical reaction with the human body), but this post it is not about that. It is about silver itself and types of silver. So many times I heard people advertising/ or even buying jewelry made from Tibetan Silver or German Silver…and have no idea what is that….the term silver seems to be widely used for a lot of things that look or resemble silver.
So here are some of the terms used for jewelry pieces and this is what they actually are:
Tibetan silver , used primarily in jewelry components, is actually an alloy of copper, and sometimes tin or nickel, with a small percentage of pure silver. It looks like aged silver and it can be polished. Today, the nickel content is reduced or absent, due to common allergies to this metal.
Currently, jewelry, beads and castings described as ‘Tibetan Silver’ tend to be an iron base ‘cheese, overlaid with this pewter and silver plating.
German silveror new silver, or albata is a copper alloy with nickel and often zinc. It’s usually made with 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver gets its name from its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver unless plated. The name “German silver” refers to its development by 19th-century German metalworkers in imitation of the Chinese alloy known as paktong (cupronickel
Silver can be tested in 2 ways: one that is very fast and 1 that takes time and uses caustic material.
1)The first method (the magnet test) is quick, but not always 100% accurate but it can give you an idea of what you are dealing with.
You need a rare earth magnet called *Neodymium* which has magnificent pull and is far stronger than any ordinary house magnet.
Keep in mind that precious metals are not magnetic. So if it’s magnetic it can’t be silver or gold or platinum. Of course, if it’s NOT magnetic it doesn’t prove anything. But it is a very good indicator.
Do keep in mind these metals are soft so something has to be combined with them to make them harder such as copper and with silver with a lower purity, more other metals are used.
2). The second method is acid testing.
However, acids are caustic and should be used with caution. And you can not use any type of acid and keep in mind that acid will leave a mark on even your most precious silver
Having said that, here are the types of silver:
- Fine silver is made from at least 99.9% pure silver and is generally only used in international trade or for reserve stockpiles in the form of bullion bars
- Sterling silver consists of 925 parts silver and 75 parts metal alloy, most of the times the metal being copper
- Britannia silver is a grade higher than Sterling and contains 958 parts silver and only 42 parts alloy. This is often denoted on silver with ‘958’ or a stamp of Britannia
- Argentium Sterling silver or Argentium Silver is a modern sterling silver alloy which replaces the the 7.5% copper alloy with the metalloid germanium.
As it retains the 92.5% silver content of the traditional alloy, it is still referred to as sterling silver.