Sterling Silver vs Stainless Steel Jewelry: The Differences Explained
Keyword(s): sterling silver vs stainless steel jewelry
In a survey of women's jewelry preferences, 35% of women chose white gold. Although it is beautiful, white gold jewelry can be cost-prohibitive for some, especially for those looking to build a more diverse jewelry collection. Silver took second place with 17% of the votes and is considered a much more versatile and cost-effective jewelry option.
In terms of silver jewelry, some may opt for stainless steel while others choose sterling silver. Though they may both have a silver appearance, they are not the same. When it comes to sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry, both types of jewelry have their distinct properties and attributes to offer.
If you're curious about learning the differences between sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry, keep reading below for more information.
Sterling Silver vs. Stainless Steel Jewelry-Composition
Stainless steel is a metal alloy often used in jewelry. It is most often comprised of elements like iron, titanium, carbon, and chromium. Stainless steel jewelry has a silvery finish that makes it look very similar in color to its sterling silver jewelry counterpart.
Sterling silver jewelry, on the other hand, is comprised of a mixture of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% metal alloy. This alloy could be nickel, zinc, or copper which is covered by a layer of silver to make the soft metal sturdier. Pure silver on its own is much too soft to make jewelry from otherwise.
Sterling silver jewelry is prone to tarnishing over time. This is especially true if it is left out in areas of high humidity, exposed to chemicals or direct sunlight, or not stored properly when it hasn't been worn for long periods. With the proper sterling silver care, however, it can maintain its beauty much longer.
Stainless steel jewelry may be ideal for some because it does not tarnish due to its inner layer of chromium. It is also corrosion-resistant so it will not rust or discolor making it ideal for more active individuals. It will maintain its distinct silvery appearance for decades with minimal effort.
Sterling silver jewelry needs some extra care when it comes to maintaining it. It requires regular cleaning and polishing practices to prevent tarnish from setting in. It also requires proper storage between wearing to keep it looking its best.
Stainless steel jewelry has a much lower profile of care required for maintenance. You can easily clean your stainless steel jewelry with mild soap and water and then dry it with a soft towel. This gives stainless steel the advantage of being very low-maintenance.
Sterling silver jewelry isn't low or high maintenance, per se. It just needs a little extra TLC every now and then.
Hypoallergenic relates to whether different types of jewelry contain materials that can cause an allergic reaction. If something says hypoallergenic, it means it won't trigger an allergy in the wearer such as a nickel allergy.
Stainless steel is widely considered hypoallergenic because it does not contain any known allergy-causing materials. Sterling silver's alloy content may contain nickel, which can cause allergic reactions in the wearer.
Your best bet is to look for sterling silver jewelry that has copper because there is less of a chance of an allergic reaction. If you have a nickel allergy, you should verify that your sterling silver jewelry has a nickel-free label for safety.
Even with a layer of metal alloy, sterling silver tends to be more on the delicate side. Over time, it can become scratched and dented from regular wear and tear. This means it is not ideal for individuals who wear jewelry while engaged in heavy physical activity or sporting events.
Stainless steel jewelry is highly durable and resistant to scratching and denting. It is less susceptible to showing wear over time and can be worn while working out without the fear of damage. This makes stainless steel jewelry suitable for people on the move.
In terms of cost, stainless steel jewelry is by far the most affordable option. Sterling silver contains real silver, which can fluctuate in price based on demand.
This can vary greatly based on personal preference though since some women may prefer to pay more to get high-quality sterling silver jewelry over stainless steel options. Many women may even view high-quality jewelry as an investment in their brand and as an heirloom to pass down to future generations.
While cost is a factor in sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry, sterling silver is still a much more affordable alternative to pricier options like platinum and the aforementioned white gold.
Because of its metal composition, stainless steel jewelry is heavier in weight. For this reason, it is often used for larger and modern jewelry pieces where its heaviness is preferable. If you're looking for large statement jewelry, stainless steel may be the way to go.
Sterling silver is much lighter in comparison to stainless steel. This makes sterling silver ideal for more intricate and ornate designs. It's also well-suited for custom silver jewelry pieces.
Each person's tastes will vary regarding the weight of their jewelry. Some may prefer heavier jewelry styles while others may lean toward wearing smaller and lighter jewelry pieces.
Uses in Jewelry
Stainless steel works well with modern and contemporary jewelry pieces. It is often used for men's jewelry pieces and used in body jewelry. You can find stainless steel jewelry used in many different types of jewelry like:
Sterling silver also has many uses in jewelry. Its versatility makes it well-suited for classic and traditional jewelry designs, but it can also create eye-catching contemporary statement designs as well.
Sterling silver can be used for more delicate types of jewelry like birthstone and initial jewelry, anklets, toe rings, pendants, and engraved jewelry in addition to standard rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.
Stainless steel jewelry has less malleability, meaning it is harder to shape, so it is best suited for modern and bold designs. Sterling silver offers much more flexibility and can be shaped and styled into an array of designs using methods like filigree, laser cutting, and enameling.
One of the key differences between sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry relates to the ability to size a ring. Sizing a ring made from stainless steel is more difficult because the metal is so rigid and stiff. Whereas sizing a ring with sterling silver is much easier because of sterling silver's malleability.
Stainless steel jewelry typically does not have any identifying marks to indicate that it is genuine stainless steel. However, they may contain a Maker's Mark to signify their brand origin. Some pieces may also contain a marking like "316L" to denote its high stainless steel grade.
One of the key sterling silver benefits is its identifying mark. On any piece of sterling silver jewelry, you're likely to find a stamped mark to help you verify that it is indeed a genuine piece of sterling silver. You'll want to look for different marks such as:
- Ster925 or 925Ster
- 925S or S925
If your sterling silver does not bear one of these marks, it may be a forgery or knockoff. However, sterling silver may also contain Maker's Marks and Country of Origin marks. In the UK, a lion passant stamp is a symbol that signifies genuine sterling silver pieces.
Both sterling silver and stainless steel jewelry are widely available for purchase from a wide variety of online and in-person jewelry retailers. Stainless steel and sterling silver both come from plentiful resources, so there is no need to worry about the supply of either running out.
The only limiting factors will apply to any particular pieces you may be looking for when buying jewelry. More detailed pieces will likely end up becoming custom designs rather than something you can buy online or in a store.
The appearance distinction between sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry is perhaps one of the most interesting differences. With sterling silver, you get a shiny silver appearance with a lustrous sheen that looks high-end. Stainless steel jewelry gives you more of a silvery and metallic look with a less shiny finish in comparison.
Ultimately, the one you choose will be based on your personal style preference and aesthetic. But with these two metal types, you can have your pick of jewelry designs no matter which way you decide to go.
It's not unheard of though for someone to wear both sterling silver and stainless steel if they're feeling truly bold. Mixing metal colors and types is a great way to express a contemporary and eclectic style.
Find Beautiful High-Quality Sterling Silver Jewelry Today
When it comes to buying jewelry, everyone has their own unique styles and preferences; but that's the beauty of jewelry itself. Everyone can create their ideal jewelry profile with different types of jewelry. Now that you understand the differences between sterling silver vs. stainless steel jewelry, you can make an informed choice to find the best jewelry for your needs.
Roma Designer Jewelry offers high-end bridge jewelry made from high-quality sterling silver. It's "affordable luxury" you can use to build your personal brand and your jewelry collection with ease.
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