You may have seen me talking about a new type of silver that I work with: Argentium Silver. I’ve worked primarily with Sterling silver since I have been wrapping minerals and gems, but have discovered that Argentium is a nice metal to work with as well. People have asked me what the difference is between the two, so I thought I would explain here.
Sterling Silver is not 100% pure but is the highest quality of silver for jewelry making or so I have seen. Everyone has seen the 925 brandings on mass produced silver jewelry and pay more for the 925 quality for making jewelry with Sterling.
Sterling Silver is an alloy of silver that has 92.5% silver. Fine silver is 99.9% silver. Sterling was made with copper to increase its hardness and strength. It has a millesimal fineness of 925. You can learn more about millesimal fineness here.
Sterling Silver is prone to tarnishing due to its mix with copper. Peter Johns at ADRI worked on a project that began in 1990 that researched the effects of germanium additions to silver.
His research discovered that Argentium silver has a very high tarnish resistance along with increased ductility, increased thermal resistance (great for welding), and firescale elimination–which makes Argentium also environmentally friendly.
Firescale is the result of extremely high temperatures used in jewelry making such as soldering. It leaves stains on the silver. Many jewelers use electroplating or electrostripping to remove the stains. This involves a bath in a cyanide mix or sometimes nitric acid.