A Silver Jewelry Primer

What kind of Silver jewelry is it?

Knowing what kind of Fine and Fashion silver jewelry you have can help prolong the life of each piece.

Like you, your silver jewelry needs proper care to look its best. There are different grades of silver jewelry and each one requires unique attention. Each type of silver jewelry is determined by its silver content. Silver is a soft metal mixed with other metals to give it strength and durability. Fine Silver is 99.9% silver by content; Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver. These are Fine-Jewelry standards. A stamp marks most fine jewelry, but plated jewelry is Fashion-Jewelry and can also be stamped. Determining which is which is a tricky prospect. Typically, purchase price can indicate what is Fine or Sterling Silver from plated silver. Tibetan silver is darker, resembling a light pewter and German silver has less depth of shine than Sterling or Fine.

Fashion-Jewelry includes Fine Silver plated, Sterling Silver plated, German silver and Tibetan silver. Plated silver jewelry is typically made of a base metal such as copper or nickel. Jewelers apply an electroplated silver coating to the base metal and stamp the purity of the coating on the item. The thickness of the coating determines the item’s lifespan. A thinly coated copper bracelet will not retain its brilliant appearance as long as a thickly coated copper bracelet. However, even these items can maintain their shine for years if properly cared for.

Other fashion jewelry items include German silver which, in its modern form, is at most 11.7% silver and often contains no silver. At the time of writing, German silver items have not been found to contain any harmful materials and are safe and inexpensive alternatives for seasonal trends. Tibetan silver was once similar to German silver, but that is no longer the case.

Antique Tibetan Silver
Examples of antique Tibetan silver and Tibetan silver jewelry.

Up until the year 2000 Tibetan silver contained at least a small amount of silver, but new items on the market often contain no silver and may even contain harmful substances like arsenic and lead. Do not wear Tibetan silver items on the skin. Treat them as you would pewter. A brooch, hat pin, or a charm that does not come into contact with the skin is acceptable. However, pendants and charms composed of Tibetan silver are not safe to wear on the skin. Please rid your jewelry collection of any Tibetan silver items that rest on your skin. Your health is more important than any fashion trend!

Click subscribe and check back next week, when we discuss how to care for each kind of silver jewelry.


Photo Credit:
Pratt, Antwerp E. To the Snows of Tibet through China. p.197. Longmans & Co. 1892.



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