steel bracelet

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver Jewelry

We are an affiliate
We hope you love the featured products! Just so you know, we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page, at no extra cost for the buyer. Thank you if you use our links, we really appreciate it!

Stainless steel and sterling silver both offer shiny looks attracting  jewelry buyers.

Despite this similarity, they are very different and both 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 is a metal alloy of iron, chromium and nickel, besides others.

Nearly all the jewelry you will come across will be made of 316L type stainless steel.

This alloy is surgical level quality.

So, when you check a new piece, if it is 316L, you’re probably ok!

This type is durable and will serve you many years.

It does not tarnish. It has high resistance to corrosion.

Moreover, you can be sure it is nickel free, which makes it hypoallergenic.

Besides these strong points, it 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, 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 its soft pure state.

And here comes sterling silver.

This alloy has 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, which is most of the time copper.

Thanks to the addition of copper and others, this hardening of silver elevates it to become rings, bracelets, necklaces and daily items and utensils.

You may easily recognize these pieces by their stamps.

Look for a sterling silver hallmark like “STERLING”,  “92.5%,” “.925” or “925” engraved marks inside rings and other items.

It is one of the most common forms of the precious white metals used in jewelry, with its exquisite 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 and all the chemicals, humidity, oil and dust the piece endures.

Another con is its softness.

It lacks the durability of stronger alternatives like steel or titanium.

Thus, it is more open to scratches and has a low resistance to deformation, quite the opposite of stainless steel.

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
Durability High Low

925 sterling demands more caring than stainless steel

If you want to your pieces to keep their shiny look, you have work to do.

First, to prevent and postpone as much as possible any tarnish, don’t wear them at the pool or beach.

Don’t shower with your sterling pieces.

Never leave them wet. Always make sure you have dried them.

Take off your 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

925 silver has a low rating on the Mohs Scale around 3, clearly showing its softness.

While steel sits at 4-4,5 and its hardened versions are much higher at 8-8,5.

This clearly shows that it is not a good idea to wear sterling bracelets during a high adrenaline outdoor adventure!

Also, a drawer full of stainless steel and other pieces is not the best storage place for the these soft 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.

Pro tip: Check for the metal of mounting bezels

Its 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

It is more resistant to physical effects and scratches.

While the softer ring may get scratched, the steel ring will remain untouched.

On the downside, this hardness makes these rings nearly impossible to resize.

You may easily pass on from even attempting to resize your engagement ring!

When you want to resize a 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 color and look that you are trying to achieve.

If you want a more authoritarian look, a mirror  type of finish, hardened-type of jewelry to compliment your fashion choice, then stainless steel is for you.

By this way, you will enjoy far less maintenance, and you can store it for years without any tarnish building up.

Both popular metals offer durability and high corrosion resistance.

However, if you want a ring made of precious metals, then sterling silver takes the upper hand.

These also tend to be a third lighter than same volume of the former.

Both will be hypoallergenic, as long as they are nickel-free thus there are no worries about allergic reactions.

The effort on caring you give to your 925 silver pieces, will reward you back with a lustrous shine.

Otherwise, tarnish will take over their shining finishes.

Never forget: the better you take care of your jewelry, the better it will take care of you!

You can check designs and prices of stainless steel and sterling silver pieces on Amazon.

Related questions

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 it as bullion reserves.

Neither steel is, nor iron is precious.

Thus we’d expect steel pieces to be more cheaper.


2. Is stainless steel jewelry any good?

Stainless steel is a very durable material.

It can serve you for a very 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 come with a lower price tag.

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, as it is an alloy made from iron and chromium.

Silver is a precious metal with a higher price tag.

It is alloyed with harder elements, mainly copper, to make it harder.