10 Types of Silver

Mukulika Mukherjee Mar 12, 2019
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The different types of silver are nothing but its alloys with other metals. They are known by different names, depending on the percentage of silver they contain.

Did You Know?

Sterling silver is the most common alloy of silver. It is used to make most of the stuff that we believe is made of pure silver.
One of the metals used in making jewelry, silver is white and lustrous. The metal is found naturally in the form of ores and as an alloy with gold and other metals. The pure form of silver has very high electrical and thermal conductivity.
Besides being highly valued as a rare metal, and used as currency since ages, it has a number of industrial uses. It is widely used in electrical and thermal conductors, compounds and salts of silver are used in developing photographic films and other chemical processes.
However, the metal in its pure form is too soft for use in making jewelry, cutlery, and other items. Hence, instead of pure silver, its alloys formed with other metals, mostly copper, are used in making jewelry and other items.
The different alloys differ according to the percentage of silver in their composition, which in turn, determines their worth. The alloys are known by different names. Sterling silver is the most common among them, and is an alloy of silver and copper. It has 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, and is used in making utensils and jewelry.

Fine Silver

Fine silver is the metal in its purest form, and is very soft. It is used to make small, delicate objects. It is used in international trade and in making bullion bars. It also used in electrical conductors because of its high conductivity.
However, it is not sufficiently durable for use in making jewelry, utensils, and other objects. A major chunk of pure silver is obtained as a by-product of the process of refining of other metals, such as zinc, copper, lead, and gold.

Composition : 99.99% silver.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver with copper, and has a wide range of applications. The addition of copper adds strength to silver, but the color and luster of the alloy is the same as that of the pure metal.
However, some other metals, like zinc and germanium, may be added in very small quantities to increase the resistance to tarnish, and to impart other desired properties.
In addition to its use in manufacturing "silver" objects and jewelry, sterling silver is used in making surgical equipment because of its resistance to heat sterilization and antiseptics.

Composition : 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Britannia Silver

Britannia silver was introduced by the government of England in an Act of Parliament passed in 1697, known as The Britannia Standard, which implied that the coins would be made using an alloy that contained 95.84% silver.
The purpose behind this move, as historians say, was to regulate the widespread practice of coin clipping and melting of silver coins by silversmiths for their own gains. It is used to make British bullion coins issued by the Royal Mint that are known as Britannia coins.

Composition : 95.84% silver and the rest is copper.

Mexican Silver

Silver mined in different parts of the world, and Mexico is one of the biggest producers of the metal.
Mexican silver can be identified by the words "Mexico silver" or the image of a spread eagle stamped on the objects made from it. Mexican silver is used in making jewelry and artifacts.

Composition : 92.5% silver, and the rest is copper or other metal.

German Silver

German silver is an alloy of silver and copper. It is one of the silver standards used in Germany. However, you should not confuse the silver alloy with another alloy of the same name.
The latter, also known as nickel silver, does not contain silver, but is an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel. German silver is popularly used in making jewelry and in carved items of home decor.

Composition : 80% silver and 20% copper or other metals.

Coin Silver

The term "coin silver" refers to the silver derived from melting coins by silversmiths.
According to the U.S. standard, the millesimal fineness of coin silver is 900, and this applies to all coins minted in the country. However, since silversmiths may use coins of other countries, the millesimal fineness of the alloy may widely vary between 750 to 900.
Since silver coins are no longer minted, coin silver is a rare alloy, and the pieces that are available in the market are considered antiques. Coin silver was used by silversmiths to craft pieces of jewelry.

Composition : 75% to 90% silver, and the rest is copper.

Russian Silver

The standard millesimal fineness of Russian silver has changed over the years, and as a result of this, you are likely to come across samples with different values. To get a better understanding of this, you should know that Russians measure the quantity of silver in terms of the zolotnik, which is equivalent to 4,266 grams.
Also, one Russian pound is equal to 96 zolotnicks. So, if you wish to determine the millesimal fineness of a sample of Russian silver, just divide the value in zolotnicks by 96.
Russian silver is used in making jewelry and other stuff.
Composition : Russian silver can be 91, 88, or 84 zolotnicks, which is equivalent to 94.7%, 91.66%, and 87.5% pure silver respectively, the rest of it being copper.

In addition to the alloys of silver mentioned earlier, there are a few other "types" of silver that are worth a mention.

Oxidized Silver

Oxidized silver is not a different alloy of silver but is a result of controlled oxidation of sterling silver―a process that leads to darkening of the metal, giving it a smoky look.
Oxidized silver jewelry is popular because it has an antique feel to it. The oxidation is carried out by the action of sulfur, which is a strong oxidizing agent. It is used in making beautiful and exquisite pieces of jewelry.

Plated Silver

Plated silver is nothing but a thin layer of silver over a base metal. The purpose of plating other metals with silver is to get the "look" of silver at a fraction of the cost. It is commonly used in jewelry and utensils.
However, plated silver needs to be handled carefully to prevent the erosion of the plated layer. It is used in making jewelry and exquisite cutlery and utensils. To identify, look for the words "plate" or "silver plate" marked on the object.

Sterling Silver Overlay

Sterling silver overlay consists of a thick layer of silver over a base metal. In contrast to plated silver that is done for the purpose of cutting down on costs, the purpose of silver overlay is to lend the elegant look of silver to an object made of a base metal that is far more durable than silver and its alloys.
This process provides aesthetic value to an object that was otherwise only functional. To identify, look for the words "silver overlay".
You must have heard names like nickel silver or tribal silver, but these do not find a mention in this list because they are alloys of different metals, without even a trace of silver in their composition. These alloys are called so purely because their look resembles that of pure silver.