I come to you today with a little talk of silver…in my last blog post I shared all about karat golds so I thought it was only fair to give silver a spotlight too.
Silver is a bit simpler as you really only see sterling silver used in jewelry. But what is it? This jewelry is stamped ‘925” because it is 92.5% silver. The other 7.5% is usually copper, added to give strength to the metal. It would be too soft for jewelry otherwise.
Now sometimes you can find other metals mixed in to mitigate the tarnishing quality of copper, usually this is advertised as argentium or de-ox (as I use). But as long as it’s 925, it is sterling silver.
Considered a precious metal, silver was once more rare than gold and at the time more valuable. We know this to be true in ancient Egypt where the skin of the gods was believed to be made of gold but the bones: silver. It was also the only white metal available for much of our history, until platinum and palladium were found.
Why is silver so much cheaper than gold? In part because it is more plentiful, and possibly in part to our perception of its value. Most people just don’t view silver jewelry as luxury. Though I could argue I’ve seen a fair amount of high end jewelry artists incorporating it into their designs, so perhaps this could change.
It also has a high demand in industrial applications…it’s the most conductive metal and is used in electrical components and others. The thing is though that silver is being consumed in these industries but not recuperated, the demand is higher than the availability of silver above ground.
Why don’t they just mine more? It costs more to mine than it is worth. Silver is currently mostly only mined as a by-product to other metals like lead and copper, with small amounts of silver coming out with it. As demand maintains, it seems likely the prices will then increase. Hold onto your silver!
Side note: I’ve spent some time looking into the amount of noble metals used in cell phones that end up in landfills as there are some jewelry artists in the UK using this specific recycled metal. I had a hard time finding any available here in the US but hopefully that changes. It is said that 1 million cell phones hold 75 pounds of gold and 772 pounds of silver! (not to mention platinum, copper, and rare earth metals). Before you go breaking your old flip phone apart, it takes special equipment to separate and process these metals but you can find ways to recycle them.
Back to jewelry making, my last question-why would I choose to use silver specifically? Well I might like the way it looks with a specific stone over gold–silver is a much brighter white than white gold.
I might be after affordability or density might be a consideration–if I cast the same piece in both silver and gold the gold piece will be heavier, this matters most for earrings.
And finally, because I like it! There is something dreamy about the bright gleam of silver, and though I love gold (a LOT), I choose to wear a mix of metals so I can enjoy a variety.
This concludes your silver lesson for the day! How do you feel about silver, do you prefer it to gold? It seems that society trends back and forth between white metals and gold but I think silver will always be popular.