You may not know it, but the metal makeup of your jewelry carries a lot of weight.
Despite the fact that many metals look similar, their material foundations are different—which affects their care, their longevity, and even their beautiful luster!
There are few metals that spark as much confusion as sterling silver and stainless steel. But what are the similarities and differences between these materials, and why should it affect your choice of jewelry?
Here’s what you should know about the difference between stainless steel and sterling silver.
Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver
First of all, let’s take a look at these two materials in their most basic form to understand the differences.
What Is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is an alloy, or a metal mixture, of both steel and chromium.
Steel, of course, is known for its durability and strength, which is why it is often used as a functional building material. Most of us will be less familiar with chromium, which is a refractory metal most often used in chromium plating, or “chrome.”
When added to steel, chromium increases the steel’s resistance to oxidation. This in turn can make the resulting mixture less changeable. It also adds a little lustrous shine.
Thanks to its beauty and durability, stainless steel is used in jewelry, utensils and cookware, and surgical equipment.
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is another alloy, but this one is made of a very specific mixture: 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, often copper. (This is why many pieces of sterling silver jewelry carry a marking that says “.925,” which sets it apart as premium sterling silver.) Silver alone is too soft to create anything that would hold its shape over long periods, which is why another metal must be used to add strength.
Sterling silver is used in jewelry and cookware as well. However, it’s also preferred for decorative ornaments and certain types of musical instruments.
What Is the Difference Between Stainless Steel and Sterling Silver?
Because both of these alloys are composed of different metals, there are a few distinctions between them—despite the fact that they look very similar!
Thanks to the influence of the added chromium, stainless steel does not tarnish (as the name suggests). The resulting product is a little duller than sterling silver, which is why it’s often used to make affordable jewelry that serves as the background for more attention-grabbing pieces, like cheap silver chains designed to display stunning pendants.
Sterling silver, on the other hand, is lighter and more lustrous than stainless steel—but that lightness comes at a cost. It can be a little softer than stainless steel, and it will also tarnish unless it’s properly cared for.
Choose With Care
Now that you know the difference, it can be easier to choose between the two options. Durability and resistance to tarnishing may be great for some jewelry wearers, while others will prefer more of a classic luster. Whatever you decide, it’ll have the beautiful silver look you’re going for—so you can’t go wrong!
For more lifestyle and beauty tips, be sure to check out the rest of the blog!
A millenial mom (of two boys) who has passion in makeup and motherhood in between.