Types of Silver: Understanding Precious Metals

noble metal

noun

CHEMISTRY

  1. a metal (e.g. gold, silver, or platinum) that resists chemical action, does not corrode, and is not easily attacked by acids.

Silver is one of our fine, noble metals which can be traced back as far as approximately 3000BC. Our fascination with silver has endured to this day thanks to not only its aesthetic properties but also its practical applications which are possibly lesser known, but play an essential part in many industries. For example did you know that silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any metal? Did you also realise that silver has fabulous antibacterial properties which can actually be used to kill bacteria? So you see there is much more to silver than meets the eye, literally!

Silver in its pure form is extremely soft and can be quite impractical for some jewellery purposes due to its lack of strength. It does however have its place and is ideal for sculptural work, casting grain and also enameling where pure metal is preferable to prevent contamination which can interfere with the adhesion of the enamel itself. Most bullion on the market is alloyed material which has additional ingredients to give it strength or anti-tarnish properties for example. Here is a rundown of the different types of silver we sell here at Cooksongold:

Fine Silver Wire

Fine Silver Wire

Fine silver(99.9% pure) The purest silver on the market. It is extremely soft, is beautifully malleable and solders easily with minimal tarnishing.

brittania silver sheet

Britannia Silver Sheet

Britannia silver(95.8% pure) Slightly softer than sterling silver, Britannia silver is alloyed with 4.2% copper and is often used for decorative Britannia silver coins. The durability and price of Sterling Silver have made Britannia silver a less popular option for jewelers and silversmiths today.

Sterling Silver Sheet

Sterling Silver Sheet

Sterling silver(92.5% pure) the most popular type of silver sold for jewellery purposes. Sterling silver is alloyed with 7.5% copper to give it strength and durability and it has the colour and working qualities that we are all most familiar with.

Eco Silver Wire

Eco Silver Sheet

Eco silver(92.5% pure) Sterling silver made from 100% recycled scrap from the medical and electronics industries which can be traced authenticated by way of a certificate.

Argentium Silver Wire

Argentium Silver Wire

Argentium silver(93.5% pure) Alloyed with germanium for increased tarnish resistance and a whiter finish, similar to fine silver. It also has great durability and strength.

So how do you know which type of silver to buy?

Your choice of silver should be determined by what you intend to use it for. As a general rule, and unless you have a good reason not to use it, most people opt for sterling silver which is a good general purpose material and has the most extensive range of products and permutations within the Cooksongold stock. The downside of sterling silver is that over time it will tarnish and it is also prone to fire scale/stain which occurs during heating which can cause unsightly marks on the surface of the metal. Both of these problems are due to the presence of copper within the alloy which solves some problems but ultimately creates others.

Argentium silver was developed to combat tarnish issues amongst other things and will produce a cleaner, whiter finish when polished so no need for any silver or rhodium plating to achieve the perfect shine. If you are planning to make something with a large surface area on show it might well be worth using Argentium silver to lessen the impact of tarnish and fire stain. Do bear in mind that tools used for Argentium need to be kept separate from your standard tools so as to avoid cross contamination.

The softer the silver, the easier it is to shape so if you are considering doing repousse or chasing work, then fine silver will give you some wonderful results. Fine silver can also be successfully used to make jewellery but will dent easily, so is best reserved for earrings and pendants which won’t have to withstand too much impact on a daily basis.

Whatever the project, there is a silver product for you, just make sure you do a little research into the working properties of your metal before parting with any cash. And if you are unsure we have our technical team on hand who will be able to answer any questions or queries you might have.

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