Bars of Silver

Five Types of Silver to Sell

There are many kinds of silver, used for creating a variety of goods including jewelry and flatware. Most jewelry-quality silver goods will bear a stamp of some kind, which is an imprint of a symbol indicating the pureness of the silver.

Sterling Silver

In the United States and in most markets, the jewelry quality standard for silver is sterling, which is an alloy of 92.5% silver. Copper, nickel, and occasionally other metals make up the remaining 7.5%. Using the other metals in the alloy increases the hardness so that the material is more durable. While sterling silver is harder than fine silver (see below), it’s still soft compared to other metals.

Alloy additions also create color and luster that is sought after. In US jewelry stores the most common type of silver is sterling silver. It is bright and shiny like we are used to seeing, but it will tarnish. However, tarnishing is easily cleaned by polishing, which you can have done at your local jeweler.

Sterling silver can be soldered, formed, and annealed (heat treated) repeatedly. The most common stamps found on sterling silver are .925 and Stg.

Fine Silver

Fine silver is made of 99.9% pure silver, as close as you can get to the pure element silver. The 0.1% remainder consists of trace elements that are not of significant quantity. Products made with fine silver are stamped with .999 or .999 FS which indicates its high percentage of purity.

Fine silver tends to have a more translucent or glass-like appearance than the bright polishing of sterling. Items made of this type of silver are quite soft and will scratch, dent, and change shape easily. Because of this, it is less commonly used in jewelry since it doesn’t wear well over time.

Some benefits of fine silver include being easily manipulated, fusing without solder, and it’s significantly resistant to tarnishing. This material is best for earrings or necklaces instead of rings or bracelets, which are often bumped and scratched due to placement.

Silver Alloys

Non-tarnish alloys, like Argentium or other brands, are new to the market. While these alloys are required to maintain a minimum of 92.5% silver, some do have slightly higher silver content. Usually, the remainder of these alloys consists of copper and germanium. Germanium is what makes the alloy tarnish resistant and generally harder than sterling or fine silver.

Exposed to extreme conditions for extended periods of time, Argentium could still tarnish, but generally these alloys require much less maintenance than sterling. While tarnish resistance is the main benefit of these alloys, it’s worth noting that Argentium will also fuse without solder.

The big downside to these alloys is price. They are significantly more expensive and much less readily available. It can also be hard to distinguish these alloys from sterling since the quality stamp is still .925. There is an application process to get authorization to use the Argentium® stamp, however it’s large and impractical for jewelry usage.

Silver Coins

There was a point in history when coins were made of silver. These are now collectible coins that trade for more than face value. In most countries, including the US, monetary coins are currently made from inexpensive, durable base metals, and no longer contain silver.

At one point in history, coin silver was a more commonly used alloy in the United States. However, now it is rare, and the name can cause some confusion. A “coin silver” alloy is 90% silver and 10% copper. The name “coin silver” originated when metalsmiths made other items from melted down silver coins.

Any antique coin silver jewelry that’s on the market will be stamped with .900.

Silver Plating

Silver plating is a technique where a base metal type is coated with an extremely thing plating layer of silver. The amount of overall silver content in silver-plated jewelry is a fraction of a percent. This makes this type of jewelry affordable costume jewelry. Silver-plating can tarnish and eventually wear off, which would expose the base metal underneath. There are no quality stamps on costume jewelry, but you can sometimes find a manufacturers logo or hallmark.

You’re in luck if you’re in or around the San Diego area. Our expert buyers at Leo Hamel Gold & Jewelry Buyers are here to assist with all your selling needs. We buy most types of silver including jewelry, flatware, hollowware, coins, bullion, bars, scrap silver and more. We’re happy to listen to the story behind every item and help explain its value to reassure you that you’re getting the best offer. Visit us off the 5 freeway near Washington Street today – no appointment necessary!

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