Sterling Silver vs Stainless Steel What is the difference?

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This is a question that many people post in Google search, so what is the real difference here?

Jeweler Melting silver
A Silversmith melts silver before crafting into a a fine piece of jewelry


Silver has been prized for centuries and one time it was valued higher than gold. Today of all the precious metals it is the most reasonably priced. Sterling silver is actually pure silver mixed with copper or other metal to make it more workable. Although it is harder than pure silver, it’s still one of the softer metals and can get scratched and marked easily. Sterling silver is a blend of pure silver along with other metal alloys that is used for making jewelry as well as in other industrial applications. Pure sterling silver contains at least 92.5% of silver and 7.5 % of other metals (typically copper) and will have 925 stamped on it. If the jewelry is advertised as sterling silver and it does not have the 926 stamp, then it is most likely fake with even lesser silver content and will deteriorate a lot sooner than you’d expect it to. In Europe silver items are stamped with a Hallmark that certifies the content of the amount of the noble metal that is present in that particular piece of jewelry.

Stainless steel, sterling silver and 14kt gold can all be alloyed and are mixtures of elements such as iron, gold, copper and zinc. Alloys were created to change the strength, color, melting temperature of these precious elements. For example, solid gold is far too soft for pierced ear hooks, so to make it a stronger metal, it is mixed with other elements (alloyed) such as silver and to make various strength alloys of gold. Iron, the base of stainless steel, is also alloyed with other elements primarily to make it stronger and resistant to rust.

Sterling Silver is very workable and quite a bit softer than any stainless steel grade and this allows it to be easily shaped in earlier times by a silversmith. Processes for producing stainless steel just were not available until the 20th century and not generally appropriate to craftsmen in a small establishment, such as a silversmith.

Over time, sterling silver will develop a mellow patina caused by ‘Oxidization’, which can give it an ‘Antique’ look. Sterling silver will tarnish as it comes into foods containing sulfur , producing the black silver sulfides that must be removed periodically with chemical polishes. Stainless steel does not tarnish in normal use in the home for flatware.

There is an array of beautiful finishes in stainless steel jewelry now. It can be made to resemble white gold, sterling silver or be plated with rose gold or yellow gold. You can essentially get the look of any precious metal fine jewelry at the fraction of the price.

Like all treasured metals, sterling silver’s worth will increase with time, and one day your jewelry might well grow to be a priceless family heirloom, so looking after it now will pay dividends sooner or later.

Test your metal object and see if it is real Sterling Silver

You might want to be testing your own precious metal items to see if it is a genuine piece or not. Here is a kit that will tell you just what your metal is and even what grade it is. With a 70% five star rating and only a 2% one star rating this test kit can be trusted to do the job that you are looking for.

Metal Test Kit

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The Simple Test for Sterling Silver vs Stainless Steel

There is also a very simple test for checking if your piece is Stainless Steel of Sterling Silver, just have a quick look at this YouTube clip and find out how: