Humans have discovered 1,740,000 metric tons of silver on earth so far.

There’s evidence that we’ve been mining silver and using it from everything from dishware to jewelry since 3000 B.C.

But it’s easy to see the striking difference in the luster and durability of an ancient chalice, coins, or a delicate pendant.

Here’s everything you need to understand about the different types of silver.

Why Are There Different Types of Silver? 

Silver is a noble metal. In its elemental form, it’s soft and easy to sculpt. Silver also easily rusts.

For this reason it’s been mixed with other metals over the centuries to make it more durable and available to use in many goods.

The ratio of silver to other metals, and the type of other metals used, impact the price of silver jewelry. Scientists are always working on a new way to synthesize silver to improve its use.

This is why there are so many types of silver out there. This article doesn’t even cover every single one!

Fine or “Pure” Silver Jewelry

This is the truest type of silver available in jewelry. You’ll see them labeled as “.999” which tells you that the item is 99.9% silver. You may also see an “FS” which stands for “fine silver.”

This form of silver is as close as you can get to elemental silver in jewelry. Fine silver has a distinctive white luster and is hypoallergenic. But pure silver is soft, which means it’s easily scratched and loses its shape over time.

Because of this, it’s best used in jewelry that doesn’t see a lot of action or come into contact with things. For example, earrings or a pendant on a necklace would be better suited for fine silver than a ring or bracelet.

Sterling Silver Jewelry

Sterling silver is one of the most widely used forms of silver. This is because it has the desired luster and is also durable. You’ll see it labeled as “.925” or “.925 STG,” “STG,” “STERLING” or “STER.”

Sterling silver contains 92.5% elemental silver. The other 7.5% of the silver is made of other metals, like copper and nickel. You’ll sometimes see them described as alloy metals.

Sterling silver is relatively soft, which makes it malleable like pure silver. But its malleability also makes it scratch easily. This is why you’ll often find it “plated” with rhodium to be stronger.

The rhodium finish and planting also help lessen the amount of tarnishing. This makes it perfect for jewelry pieces that see a lot of action, like these rings from Dreamland Jewelry. The good thing is that tarnish is generally easy to remove and manage with routine cleaning.

Argentium Silver Jewelry

Argentium is a brand of silver alloy. It’s made to be more durable and resistant to rust than sterling silver. This type of silver is usually combined with other metals like germanium and copper.

It’s considered to be the new sterling silver.

What’s also interesting about it is that it can actually contain more pure silver than sterling silver. It comes in two grades “.932” and “.96.” This means that Argentium silver can be up to 96% pure silver.

Authentic Argentium silver jewelry will be labeled as “Argentium.” If it doesn’t have this stamp, it’s likely a knock-off or a type of sterling silver. Authentic Argentium does not contain nickel and is also hypoallergenic.

The only downside to Argentium is that it’s more expensive than other types of silver. It’s also harder to find.

Coin Silver Jewelry

Don’t let the name confuse you. The coins in your wallet are likely not made completely of silver.

This type of silver got its name because metal smiths used to melt down old coins and use the silver to create jewelry. In the absence of chemistry the silver extracted from coins had traces of copper in it. Which made pure silver more durable.

Coin silver was the sterling silver of America before sterling silver came around. Like sterling silver it’s an alloy, but it only contains 90% silver (and 10% copper). This is why you’ll find coin silver labeled as “.900.”

Since coin silver is rarely used in new jewelry you’ll usually only find it in antiques and older pieces.

Silver Filled vs. Silver Plated Jewelry 

So what does it mean silver is labeled as “filled” or “plated”? What’s the difference in quality, durability and longevity?

Silver-plated jewelry is basically low quality costume jewelry. This is type of silver does not have the same hypoallergenic and durable qualities as true silver. With this type of jewelry a thin coat of silver covers a cheaper metal.

Silver filled jewelry is where other metals are synthesized in layers with at least 5% or 10% of real silver by weight.

But this type of silver is new and isn’t as widely used as the types of silver, and it doesn’t have an “official” labeling. This can make it difficult to “prove” its authenticity. Filled silver is also not hypoallergenic and tarnishes easily, but it is more affordable.

So Which Type of Silver is Right for You? 

The good thing about having so many types of silver available, is that there’s something available for every style and budget.

The versatility of silver will likely make it a popular metal in jewelry for years and even centuries to come.

What’s your go-to type of silver? Are you a purist? Or are you all about modern alloys?

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