How to choose the right silver quality for your piece of jewelry? One of the most used precious metals in jewelry is silver, an absolute great material, that matches fabulously with a lot of gemstones. You might wonder: FlorenceJewelshop works with pure and natural materials, why is she using silver? Silver in pieces of jewelry is not pure. That would be too soft and it would scratch easily. The silver jeweler designers use silver mixed with a metal. How does that work, and what about the value? At the end of this blog post, you will have the answers!
What about pure silver?
You never will buy a piece of jewelry of pure, or 999 or fine silver. When someone is offering you that you know you are getting cheated. Pure silver is too soft to work with. Therefore it is always mixed with another metal, mostly copper, to make it usable for coins, silverware of pieces of jewelry. That technique is already known since 4000-3000 BC. Besides that, it is too soft to work with… silver is found in other minerals like lead and it is very hard to get all the ‘foreign’ metals out of the silver. Therefore is pure silver also called 999 silver. This means that there are 999 particles silver and 1 particle of another metal in the pure silver.
Different types of silver in different cultures and countries.
Now we know that you have to mix the silver with another metal, it is important to know how much silver and how much other metal there is in your piece of jewelry. The higher the amount of silver the more valuable is your piece. To make it confusing for the customer the silver industry uses a lot of names for the silver and the used silver is in every country different.
In the Netherlands and Belgium we use three types of ‘silver’:
- First-grade silver or 925 silver or sterling silver has 925 particles silver and 25 particles copper in the ‘silver’. It is used for pieces of jewelry and we mark the silver so that everybody knows what kind of silver you are buying.
- Second-grade silver or 800 silver has 800 particles silver and 200 particles copper and this silver is used for silverware, like plates etc.
- White metal has less than 800 particles of silver and you are not allowed to call this metal ‘silver’, it is white metal, like alpaca
In other countries, the second-grade silver is already called white metal and there are nations that call 800 and below just ‘silver’. I hope you can follow me up till now. The best tip I can give you is to buy 925 silver or sterling silver for your pieces of jewelry. This silver keep sits value and stays beautiful and does not scratch easily.
Silver that is not silver!
When I was young ( not so long ago, ha) I worked in Tibet and Nepal. There they sold silver that looked very dusty and not shiny, Whatever I asked the sellers they insisted that this was real silver. And for those countries, the official first-grade silver can contain about 200 particles silver and 800 particles copper or another metal, like pewter. You see this silver a lot in ethnic pieces of jewelry, combined with turquoise and coral.
Silver that is more than silver!
In South East Asia live the Karen people and they are specialized in making silver beads. The families work with silver already for ages. They don’t use the 925 silver or less, like 200 silver, no they are working with 975 or more particles silver and only 25 or fewer particles of copper. The Karen silversmiths are real artists and they make beads with a lot of ornaments and beautifully shaped beads. And for this work counts: the softer the silver, the easier to work with.
The Karen people work in their huts with a small fire, made of wood, hardly any tools. Anyway, no sophisticated tools like in the Western world. And their beads are famous. FlorenceJewelshop uses their beads because of their beauty and quality. And I would like to give the Karen people a chance to survive in this mechanical world, where there is hardly any place for hand work (it seems).
You have quality and 925 silver in Bali
The difference in silver it not only the amount of silver one uses to make a piece of jewelry. It is also the craftsmanship that differs a lot. In Bali, the people in and around Celud use 925 silver for making beads and they have developed their own style, that is magnificent. The silversmiths tell a story with their beads, using a lot of tiny little ornaments to decorate the beads. This work has a high standard and quality and is gorgeous at the same time.
At the beginning of this blog post, I told you that silver was a trending material in 2017 and that will continue in 2018. Since there so many different styles and qualities in silver it is hard to choose the right silver for your piece of jewelry.
Here are some tips to make it easier for you:
- Buy only 925 silver or higher. The quality is great, and the silver shines beautifully
- Silver that has less than 925 particles on a total of 1000 cannot be repaired so easily
- Look for the 925 mark in the piece of jewelry to be sure you are not tricked
- The silver beads of the Karen people (Thai silver) and the Bali silver beads are the best you can get (is my professional opinion).
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop