Things about silver you may not know.

Silver is an absolutely wonderful metal.  It's considered one of the Noble Metals due to it's ability to withstand corrosion and chemical reactions.  Some other Noble Metals are Gold, and Platinum.  Did you know that silver is naturally antimicrobial and it has been used throughout the years in medicine and surgical devices?

There are many different silver alloys two are most commonly used in Jewelry today, Sterling, and Argentium.

Sterling Silver witch is generally known as 925 is the most popular form for jewelry and silverware.  It is a mixture of 92.5% Fine Silver and 7.5% Copper.  The Copper (which is also antimicrobial) adds hardness and durability to the silver.  Sterling in all of its forms is the most popular Silver that jewelers work with.  The fact that it has copper in it gives it a character that manifests over time as tarnish.  Many silversmiths myself included use tarnish in their favor as a way to create contrast and definition in their designs. But as a silversmith there is a downside to adding copper to mix.  Copper oxidizes quickly and readily when heated in an oxygen rich environment.  This can cause the silver to stain a dark greyish brown color.

Argentium is another form of Sterling silver which has 92.5% Fine Silver and a proprietary amount of Germanium and Copper.  The recipe is more or less secret in exact amounts but never has more than 7.5% Germanium or Copper.  Sometimes I think there may be small amounts of zinc as well.  Argentium can be marked as Sterling or 925 because it is of the same or more purity as normal Sterling.  Argentium has several advantages over normal Sterling in that does not tarnish as quickly.  It's is also much less likely to become stained when heated to high temperatures.  This staining known as firescale is a common problem with Sterling Silver alloys and can ruin a fine piece of jewelry in a matter of seconds if it is over heated.

Fine Silver.  This is the pure stuff it's number 47 on the Periodic table and it's symbol is Ag.  Fine Silver is too soft for silverware and not nearly as durable as Sterling but it has one major advantage over the alloys.  Fine silver does not tarnish.  Fine silver is so shinny when polished that it is used in telescopes and mirrors.

One quality of Silver is it is extremely conductive.  Silver is so conductive that if you heat it in only one spot, the heat will dissipate into the surrounding metal quickly.  This is why when working with silver you will see the smith moving the torch around to heat the entire piece  as evenly as possible, whereas other metals can be heated in a more localized manner.

One of the things I love about Sterling Silver is the way it ages and tarnishes over time.  It's very easy to keep shinny, but its nice to see how it changes over the years and becomes patinaed.  This process can be hasten with liver of sulfur and other chemicals to create an antique look and feel to the piece.


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