There are very many qualities of silver. There is a possibility that you think you buy the right silver for you. Maybe because you are allergic to metals. And still, you have problems wearing that piece of jewelry. Just because it is called silver, but on the other hand it is not. And do you know that 925 silver (sterling silver) is not the best silver available? Let me try to explain this to you.
The amount of silver!
Just to make things clear. A silversmith cannot work with 100% silver to make jewelry. It is too soft and a piece of jewelry will not last long. So that silversmith will add some other material to the pure silver to make it workable.
The pure silver is mixed with copper, zinc, or nickel. It depends on the amount of the other metals what quality the silver is. For instance, sterling silver contains 925 parts of silver and 75 parts of another metal (925 silver). In Thai silver, you get 975 parts of silver and 25 parts of another metal. Thai silver is therefore softer. And Tibetan or Nepalese silver contains only 200 parts silver and 800 parts of another metal.
For the silversmiths in the world, it is a kind of science to use silver with the highest amount of real silver, that is still strong enough to make jewelry.
What types of silver can you buy?
925 silver (sterling silver)
Hang on because there is really a great collection of silver to choose from. Let us start with the internationally recognized standard for fine silver, the 925 silver. It is used mostly in the Western world and it is 92.5% pure silver. You make a great piece of jewelry with this quality: strong and as pure as possible. But… silver and oxygen is not a great combination. Oxygen tarnishes the silver, especially when it is not plated, like sterling silver (925 silver).
Plain silver (925 silver)
Plain 925 silver is sterling silver with a kind of rhodium coating to avoid tarnishing. People call this kind of silver also platinum. The coating is expensive and therefore most of the ‘normal’ silver is sterling silver without the coating.
Thai silver (975 silver)
This is my favorite kind of silver. It is 97.5% pure silver and the Karen people from the hills in Thailand are experts in making fantastic Thai silver beads. The silver is softer and it is easier to handle. A Karen silversmith forms a silver bead, puts some wood into the bead, and then it goes into a fire to harden it.
This silver is a bit more blackish than sterling silver because this type of silver has no coating and tarnishes faster. It gets the effect of ancient or old silver, which can be the case but not necessarily so.
The price of Thai silver is higher than sterling silver since the amount of silver is higher and because it’s all handmade.
Tibetan or Nepalese silver (200 silver)
Traditional Tibetan of Nepalese silver contains 200 parts of silver and the rest is another metal or metals. Nowadays there is no silver at all in this ‘silver’. But it is made of copper with a nickel alloy, with sometimes a silver plating. We don’t call this ‘silver’.
Now you know what types of silver you can buy. But there are also different ways in how silver is decorated. I explain now what the differences are between Thai and Bali silver. And what filigree silver is.
Difference between Thai and Bali silver?
Some people think that the only difference between Thai and Bali silver is the place it comes from. Well, there is more to it.
The Thai silver has more silver (95-98% of silver) and it’s softer. The Bali silver contains 92,5% silver, just like sterling silver, and tarnishes faster.
Thai silversmiths use simple designs, like shells, flowers, or even plain beads. The Bali silversmiths go out of their mind making their beads, with a lot of dots, lines, geometrical shapes. The designs make the Bali silver beads heavier.
And.. the filigree silver
Filigree is a style of making jewelry designs, in gold and silver. It is made of threads twisted together with tiny beads or dots. With the threads, a silversmith makes artistic motifs like leaves and flowers and they are soldered together into one piece of jewelry. Sometimes filigree silver jewelry looks like lacework.
It is very popular in Asia, but also Ecuador has a place where they specialize in filigree jewelry. Read another blog post, where I explain most about this beautiful and intriguing jewelry.
When you ask me…
I love Thai silver, the designs, the color, and the origin of how it is made. The Karen people really create beautiful beads and their technique hardly changes. There is about 5-6% more pure silver in the Thai silver beads and therefore they tarnish a bit less than the other ‘silvers’.
Just have a good look at the Thai and Bali silver designs and let me know whether you like them as much as I do.
925 Silver and all the varieties is a beautiful precious metal, but the combination with oxygen means tarnishing. There is no way around silver to get tarnished besides from wearing your silver jewelry a lot. And there are some other tips I have about the right way to store and clean your precious jewelry. Those tips are published in a small but valuable little PDF, that is published by FlorenceJewelshop. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
Hug, Florence of FlorenceJewelshop