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Stainless steel and sterling silver both offer shiny looks attracting jewelry buyers.
Despite this similarity, they have pros and cons.
Here is the quick answer:
- If you want the cheaper, more durable jewelry and prefer doing little care, pick stainless steel.
- If you like the more shiny, lighter metal and you are ready to cope with the tarnish, sterling silver is your winner.
Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a iron alloy.
It contains iron, chromium and nickel, besides others.
Nearly all the jewelry you will come across will be made of 316L stainless steel.
This alloy is surgical level quality steel.
So, when you check a new piece, if it is 316L steel, you’re probably ok!
This steel type jewelry is durable and will serve you many years.
It does not tarnish or corrode.
Moreover, you can be sure it is nickel free, which makes it hypoallergenic.
Besides these strong points, stainless steel also have cons.
First, it is not a precious metal.
Second, it is not light in weight.
Third, it does not shine like sterling or rhodium plated white gold.
Pros and Cons of Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver very widely used in jewelry.
Using 100% pure silver is not quite possible because it is too soft.
Just like we do for gold, we need a more durable material than fine silver.
And here comes sterling silver.
This alloy has 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, which is most of the time copper.
You may easily recognize sterling pieces by the stamps.
Look for “STERLING”, “92.5%,” “.925” or “925” engraved marks inside sterling silver rings and other jewelry items.
Sterling silver is one of the most common forms of silver used in jewelry.
It carries the exquisite silver shine.
But these pros come with some thorns too.
Sterling silver jewelry does tarnish.
Tarnish is the blackish layer that take away the luster away.
This process is enhanced due to copper in sterling and all the chemicals, humidity, oil and dust the piece endures.
Another con for 925 silver is its softness.
Sterling lacks the durability of stronger alternatives like steel or titanium.
|Stainless steel||Sterling silver|
|Tarnish||Does not tarnish||Does tarnish|
|Hypoallergenic||Yes, if nickel free||Yes, if nickel free|
|Easy to take care||Yes||Needs a little more work|
|Scratch resistance||High resistance||Low resistance|
Sterling silver demands more caring than stainless steel
If you want to your sterling to keep its shiny look, you have work to do.
First, to prevent and postpone as much as possible any tarnish, don’t wear your silver at the pool or beach.
Don’t shower with your sterling jewelry.
Never leave them wet. Always make sure you have dried them.
Take off your silver pieces when doing cleaning and garden work.
Keep it away from perfumes and makeup. Make sure your bling comes last, always after deodorants, while getting ready to go out.
Stainless steel is harder than sterling silver
Silver has a low rating on the Mohs Scale around 3, showing its softness.
While steel sits at 4-4,5 and hardened steel is much higher at 8-8,5.
This clearly shows that it is not a good idea to wear sterling silver jewelry during a high adrenaline outdoor adventure!
Also a drawer full of other pieces is not the best storage place for the soft silver items.
It would be best, if you keep sterling 925 silver in separate pouches.
This will prevent airflow and physical contact with other items, which may cause scratches.
Silver’s softness also forces us to pay more attention to mounting gemstones.
The stones may dislocate from the bezel if they are not fixed tight enough.
The solution is to use a harder metal as mounting bezels.
Stainless steel is more durable than sterling silver
Steel is more resistant to physical effects and scratches.
While the softer sterling ring may get scratched, the steel ring will remain untouched.
On the downside, this hardness makes steel rings nearly impossible to resize.
You may easily pass on from even attempting to resize your steel engagement ring!
When you want to resize a sterling silver ring, you can easily have it done by a short visit to the local jewelry shop.
The Verdict: Stainless Steel or Sterling Silver, which one should you buy?
A large part of your decision between stainless steel vs sterling silver will depend on the look that you are trying to achieve.
If you want a more authoritarian look, hardened-type of jewelry to compliment your fashion choice, then stainless steel is for you.
By this way, you will enjoy far less maintenance than silver jewelry, and you can store it for years without any tarnish building up.
However, if you want a ring made of precious metals, then sterling silver takes the upper hand against stainless steel.
Silver items also tends to be a third lighter than same volume of stainless steel pieces.
Both will be hypoallergenic, as long as they are nickel-free.
The effort on caring you give to your sterling silver pieces, will reward you back with a lustrous shine.
Never forget: the better you take care of your jewelry, the better it will take care of you!
Where to buy stainless steel and sterling silver jewelry?
1. Is stainless steel more expensive than silver?
Silver is a precious metal like gold, platinum and palladium.
It has been used as money for centuries.
Even today some central banks hold silver bullion reserves.
Neither steel is, nor iron is precious.
Thus we’d expect 925 silver items to be more expensive than steel pieces.
2. Is stainless steel jewelry any good?
Stainless steel is a very durable material.
You can use a steel piece for a long time.
Moreover, it takes little care to keep its nice look.
It suffice to wipe it with a soft cloth from time to time and that’s all.
Plus, it will cost little when compared to silver pieces.
This means you can add many more items to your collection at a low price.
3. Does stainless steel contain silver?
We’d not expect stainless steel to contain silver.
Fine silver is a rare metal which is too soft for jewelry.
It is alloyed with harder elements, mainly copper, to make it harder.
Stainless steel is a steel alloy made from steel and chromium.