Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Metals Part 2 - Silver

Silver is a white-grey metal that is less expensive than gold, platinum, titanium and rhodium. It is prone to oxidisation when exposed to air which causes the silver to turn black. However, it is easily polished back to look new.

There are basically two types of silver:
Fine silver (99.9% silver) - this is really too soft for jewelry. Industry standard has 0.1% copper added for strength. Also known as .999 fine silver or 999 silver. Usually with 999 fine silver, rhodium is added to give it shine and strength. This of course will bring the cost up.

Sterling silver (92.5% silver and 7.5% copper). It is also known as .925 silver or 925 silver. Most of the ear-rings and jewelry sold in stores are made with 925 silver.

Some silver is plated with gold. This means the silver is used as the base metal and fine layers of gold are plated on top of the silver. Problem is after a while, the gold layers tend to flake off.

Rhodium is white and in the platinum family. It is very strong and hard, and often used to plate sterling silver jewelry to prevent tarnish.

Some of my customers complain that they are allergic to the costume jewelry bought from stores so they resort to buying expensive gold jewelry. Even so, they still experience some kind of skin reaction, especially in ear-rings and conclude they are allergic to gold. Well, yes and no... because sometimes nickel is added to these jewelry (yes, even expensive jewelry!) and their reaction is to the nickel. Some places sell hypoallergenic ear-rings but are made from stainless steel which also has minute amounts of nickel!

Here at Rebecca Yam Jewelry, I use rhodium plated findings (hooks, clasps, wires, ear wires, headpins etc) with silver as the base metal. I have always made sure I stayed away from anything with nickel. So far, there have been no reports of allergies. I am very careful when I buy my supplies, making sure I only get them from reliable suppliers. This also means I do not buy findings from street vendors in Singapore or when I travel no matter how cheap they are! Surgical steel and niobium ear wires are available on request but will cost a bit more.

I hope this simple write ups on gold and silver helped. Next week I'll begin another short series on how to take care of your jewelry. Check back again!


Mandy said...

Thanks for the awesome article, and I love the layout and look of your blog, it is very well done!

Rebecca Yam said...

Thanks Mandy!