Silver is one of the most popular and versatile precious metals. It’s soft, pliable, and attracts the eye with its white metallic shine. The word “silver” comes from proto-Germanic silubrą via old English seolfor. Other modern Germanic languages also use similar words, such as German Silber and Dutch zilver. Keep reading to learn more about silver purity and different silver alloys.
- Weight and Purity
- What are the different types of alloys?
- How can I tell what my silver is worth?
Weight and Purity of This Shining Metal
Silver’s weight is usually given in troy ounces. One troy ounce equals 1.097 “regular” ounces or 31.103 grams.
Purity refers to the amount of pure silver compared to the total weight. Fun fact: “Karat” refers to metal purity, while “carat” is used to measure the mass of gemstones and pearls. The karat system is used in the US and UK. This method is based on the number 24. A 24-karat metal is at least 99.95% pure, while an 18-karat metal is around 75% pure, and so on.
Other countries use a millesimal system for measuring purity. This system indicates the purity of alloys by parts per thousand. The higher the number, the greater the purity. In this system, 24 karats are equal to 999, 18 karats to 750, etc.
What are the different types of alloys?
Silver’s interesting characteristics make it perfectly suited to jewelry making. While pure silver is extremely soft, silver alloys are much more stable and suitable for jewelry.
Silver alloys are made up of silver and at least one other metal, usually copper. The most common types are 18K, 20K, and 22K silver. Top-quality silvers are usually 22K (also known as Sterling silver) or above. But what distinguishes the individual alloys?
Fine Silver: For Silver Bullion Coins
Fine silver, or 24-karat silver, is 99.9% pure silver, meaning it’s far too soft for jewelry making. Instead, it’s mainly used to create silver bullion bars and coins.
Britannia Silver: At the Dining Table
Britannia silver is a silver-copper alloy made of 95.8% silver and 4.2% copper. This equals 23 karats. Due to its high purity, Britannia silver is most commonly found in the form of cutlery or coins.
Argentium Silver: Hard and Durable
Argentium silver is also over 90% pure silver. More specifically, it’s between 93.5 and 96% silver. However, since this alloy also contains some of the element germanium, it is stronger than its more famous cousin, Sterling silver.
935 Silver: Between 22 and 23 Karats
This alloy – which is 93.5% pure silver – is purer, brighter, and more expensive than sterling silver. It’s predominantly used in high-quality jewelry thanks to its combination of stability and value. This type of silver is especially well suited to enameled jewelry and was as popular in ancient times as it is today.
Sterling Silver: The Most Famous Silver Alloy
Sterling silver, which is about 22 karats, is the most popular silver for jewelry making. At 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, it has a very slight red tinge. The copper content also makes this alloy stronger so that no cracks appear on the jewelry’s surface.
Did you know that the “sterling” in sterling silver most likely comes from the Old English word steorling (“little star”), as some early Norman coins were printed with a star?
This silver alloy used to be commonly found in silverware, vases, bowls, and jewelry. However, with a silver content of only 83.5%, 20-karat silver wasn’t pure enough to form a standard. As a result, it was replaced by sterling silver. However, you’ll still find antique pieces made of 20-karat silver on the pre-owned market.
18 Karats: 75% Pure Silver
Silverware and other objects are often made of 18-karat silver. This alloy is 75% pure silver and 25% other metals, such as copper.
So-called “nickel” or “German silver” is even more corrosion resistant than normal silver. Despite its name, this alloy contains no silver at all. Instead, it’s most commonly 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. Some versions also contain other elements like lead, iron, manganese, or tin.
The term “nickel silver” comes from its silvery appearance despite containing no silver. Its other name, “German silver,” refers to its origins among German metalworkers in the 19th century. It’s most commonly used in the production of cutlery, musical instruments, medals, and coins. However, it’s not a good jewelry material.
How can I tell what my silver is worth?
If you’d like to know how much your silver jewelry is worth, it’s pretty easy to calculate. First, weigh the piece using a jewelry scale. Then multiply this weight by its purity to the nearest thousandth. For example, if your jewelry’s silver content is 750 parts per thousand (18 karats), multiply the weight by 0.750. This will give you the total weight of the pure silver.
To figure out the value of the silver alone, multiply the pure silver weight by the current price for silver. You can find the current market value for silver here: Silver Price
Our Exciting Silver Jewelry
People have been making silver jewelry for millennia. Despite its ancient origins, this material is still seen as stylish and modern today. Silver jewelry is the perfect choice for every occasion thanks to its timeless elegance. The options for this striking metal are nearly endless.
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