Many people can’t take their eyes off bold, expressive, and dazzling silver men's rings for bikers. However, only a few people know what lies behind this mysterious word ‘silver’. Yes, everyone is aware that this is a white metal but that’s probably it. Is silver jewelry make of pure metal? And what is sterling silver? What does a 925 stamp mean? Let's figure it all out.
Pure or 999 Silver
Pure silver (marked with a 999 stamp) is incredibly beautiful but not very durable metal. Pure silver is soft so it scratches easily and quickly loses its gloss. Openwork details of such jewelry rapidly lose their texture and smooth out. As a result, jewelry made of pure silver is deprived of expressiveness. Its attractiveness and artistic value is decreased.
999 silver is of great honor among the people of the Far East. The Japanese, who had long and firmly believed in the close interrelation of pure silver and the moon, eagerly buy silver jewelry bearing a 999 hallmark.
Due to the fact that pure silver is not practical, it is rarely used in jewelry production. The word silver most often means an alloy of silver with a base metal. Copper is the most popular ligature in silver alloys: metals are ‘friends’, they mix and alloying well, and, most importantly, they give each other many useful properties. Instead of copper (or with copper), silver can be blended with aluminum, zinc, and nickel.
Silver alloy products are marked with a three-digit number that denotes the millesimal fines. Such a hallmark reflects how many grams of the precious metal are contained in a kilogram of jewelry alloy.
The well-known sterling silver is a silver alloy bearing a 925 hallmark. The alloy has only 7.5% of copper, the remaining share belongs to the noble metal.
Sterling is an ancient (ΧΙVth century) English coin. It has been believed that silver used for the sterling minting has been of the highest quality. Today, sterling silver is considered the best material for crafting jewelry, art, and household items.
Sterling silver is white, durable, and it is not prone to tarnishing. Its color is characterized as dazzling, and the quality is top-notch. No wonder that sterling silver is the number one choice for biker men’s jewelry.
Silver bearing an 800 stamp is considered suitable for cutlery, salt shakers, oilers, and other utensils. However, such silver requires constant care, that is, periodic cleaning to prevent the oxide film occurrence.
Silver with 875 millesimal fineness is still a low-grade alloy, but besides being usable for silverware, it can be utilized in the cheaper jewelry manufacture.
Alloy with a 900 stamp is considered to be good silver. It is also called coin silver since it used to be made of refined scrap coins. This alloy can be met in jewelry items with enamel coating or gilding.
Blackened silver is metal obtained by engraving pure silver, followed by coating it with niello. Niello is an alloy of sulfur oxides of silver, copper, and lead. In order to enhance engraving with blackening, the mixture is heated to the melting. Niello fills recesses and leaves black lines on the surface of silver. Blackened silver products do not need to be cleaned. In ancient times, blackened silver has been used to craft amulets and totems that protected their owners from evil spirits.
Modern technologies allow replacing blackening with fast yet shallow oxidation. Oxidized silver is produced by combining silver with sulfur. The sulfur substance is dissolved in water and then a silver product is placed in it. Just a few minutes is enough to create a film of black oxidized silver.
Jewelry items of oxidized silver should be cleaned carefully because the oxide layer can easily be removed. It is safer to clean such ornaments with a soft cloth and a mild soap solution.
Oxidized silver is used to make small jewelry pieces such as men’s rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, chains, and bracelets. Blackened silver items are appealing because their protruding parts become shiny, and recessed parts remain dark.
Matt silver ornaments rivet the attention of people who love unusual things. The matte surface is obtained by sandblaster, which applies microscopic glass beads on the metal surface. Another method of matting is treating silver with a special liquid suspension of chemically active ingredients.
The richest deposits of silver ore were discovered In Thailand in the 1980s. This led to the rapid development of jewelry production. Today, Thailand is the world leader in silver jewelry manufacture. Silver jewelry is taken under strict state control. Thai silver, as a rule, contains 925 parts of pure silver per thousand, which corresponds to 925 sterling silver. Due to the low tax, Thai silver is very affordable.
Imitations of silver
Silver imitations are not necessarily fake precious metals. Melchior and nickel silver were created as an inexpensive replacement for the expensive material.
Melchior is an alloy known since prehistoric times. It is comprised of copper and nickel, with small inclusions of iron and manganese (or without them). Cutlery made of melchior has long been considered a worthy replacement for silver spoons and forks, but now it is recognized that nickel is harmful to health.
Nickel silver (also known as German silver, Argentan, nickel brass) is an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc. The alloy is inexpensive but only partly suitable only for cutlery: if a spoon of nickel silver is not covered with a layer of natural silver, food will acquire a metallic taste.
Tibetan or tribal silver
Jewelry sellers often use the term “Tibetan silver” referring to the high content of natural silver in the alloy. In fact, such jewelry is made of nickel silver enriched (sometimes only on paper) with real silver. The best examples of Tibetan silver may contain up to 30% of the precious metal. The worst case scenario is no silver in the alloy whatsoever.