Silver Metals- Defined
I was recently in a store and was asking if the store carried Argentium sterling silver. I am going to be transitioning to this type of sterling silver and needed a larger gauge that I had forgot to order from Rio Grande. Anyways, the store clerk told me that they don't carry it because it is a Rio Grande brand (which it is not) and is the same as Rhodium plated silver. I was pretty sure that this was way off the mark and came home to do some research. Here's what I found:
Argentium is a very innovative metal
Argentium silver, invented in 1996 by Peter Johns, like sterling silver is at least 92.5% pure silver. Unlike sterling which is 7.5% alloy copper, argentium has a small amount of germanium instead of copper. It is free from tarnish and firescale, more malleable, easily fused and fired with metal clay. Germanium is an element similar to tin and silicon.Benefits of using Argentium sterling silver:
- Highly tarnish resistant
- Harder then regular sterling silver
- Firescale free (awesome if you will be using in jewelry fabrication)
- Brighter then sterling silver
Sterling silver items are made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper or some other metal (or metals). Those proportions are set by law -- change the proportions and those beads aren't sterling silver. A clue that you've got sterling silver beads? Over time, sterling silver will take on an antiqued look (called a ''patina''). Most of the precious silver you'll see in the beading world is sterling silver.
Argentium™ silver is a form of sterling silver where some of the copper alloy is replaced by germanium. This creates tarnish resistance in the silver, without lowering the purity of the metal.
Rhodium is a rare silvery-white hard metal. Rhodium is a member of the platinum group, is found in platinum ores and is used in alloys with platinum. It is the most expensive precious metal. Rhodium is a metal very similar to platinum, sharing many of the properties of platinum including its white color. Rhodium plating is used to make white gold look whiter. The natural color of white gold is actually a light gray color. Rhodium is very white and very hard, but it does wear away eventually.Fine silver is the highest and most pure type of silver available: 99.9% silver. This pure form of silver is used by the Hill Tribes of Thailand to create beads, chains and findings. In addition, Art Clay® is created from the fine silver particles reclaimed from recycled film, and can be used to create jewelry of fine silver.
Nickel silver (sometimes called ''German silver'' or ''Mexican silver'') is made of a blend of metals -- mostly nickel -- and looks much like sterling silver. Side-by-side comparisons show that nickel silver has a slightly greyer color tone. Nickel-plated items are also available.
Common Types of Silver
99.9% silver, .1% other metals
95.84% silver, 4.16% other metals (usually copper)
92.5% silver, 7.5% other metals (usually copper)
92.5% silver, 6.4% other metals (usually copper), 1.1% germanium
90% silver, 10% other metals
0% silver, 100% other metals (usually nickel, zinc and copper)