All that Glitters is not Gold – Sometimes it’s Beautiful Silver!

All that Glitters is not Gold
– Sometimes it’s Beautiful Silver!

A Few Must-Know Tips for Buying Silver Jewelry

Silver is a beautiful “white” precious metal that can add a spectacular brilliance to jewelry. But, some silver materials are high-maintenance and some are very low. Further, your jewelry designer’s selection of silver materials and the manner in which they are used can greatly impact whether your new piece spends more time in the closet or more time making you look beautiful.

Certain silver materials are stronger and more resilient than others, meaning that your jewelry will last longer and retain its beauty, if your jewelry designer has chosen materials well. Many silver materials will tarnish, but some are quite tarnish resistant. And, how you put on, wear, take off, and store your jewelry will also greatly affect its lifespan and how much time you spend, or don’t spend, with a polishing cloth.

With this in mind, here are a few key points to help you shop for silver jewelry that will last longer, shine brighter, and maintain its beauty, while virtually eliminating or dramatically reducing your effort in its care and feeding.

The first topic is the “ T ” word. Yes, I said it. Tarnish. Ugh. But wait -- all is not lost.

We all know that nasty bugaboo of so many metals can take a beautiful, gleaming chain or accent and turn it into a dull, discolored lump. But, have heart fellow jewelry lovers – with a little care, your jeweler can provide you with gorgeous, brilliant pieces that will need little or no care over the years.

The first thing your jeweler can do for you is provide tarnish-resistant silver options. These include Argentium Sterling Silver, silver treated with a tarnish-resistant coatings, and rhodium plated sterling silver. If well cared for, jewelry incorporating these materials should stay bright and beautiful for a long time without polishing, and if needed, polishing should be simple, easy, and very infrequent.

As you may have guessed, we have a lot of jewelry. And, we much prefer spending our time designing, creating, and selling jewelry, as opposed to polishing it. We also believe that, similarly, our clients prefer spending their time enjoying their jewelry, rather than polishing it.

When designing silver jewelry, Cee goes to great lengths to maximize the use of tarnish-resistant forms of silver. For example, when she creates jewelry using pinwork, wirework, or other wire techniques, she exclusively use Argentium Sterling Silver and other tarnish-resistant silver wire. Similarly, she loves Argentium chain and rarely use silver chains that are not tarnish-resistant.

Yet, sometimes the beauty of certain Bali fine silver or certain sterling silver components and chain cannot be resisted. Sterling silver chains and components are available in a mindboggling array of styles and types, many of which are gorgeous.

In the occasional instances when Cee uses such materials, she take steps in the design process to minimize the need for polishing and to make any eventual polishing quick and easy. As just one example, she works very hard to limit such materials to larger elements that are readily accessible and not overly intricate. Thus, if polishing is ever needed, it can be accomplished easily and without causing damage to the piece.

The second thing your jeweler can do for you is provide you with some simple materials and information to minimize the chance of tarnish and help deal with it, if necessary.

This is easy, but often overlooked. To minimize tarnish, follow basic jewelry care tips, such as the last-on-first-off rule. (Please see our Jewelry Care Tips for more:

Also, consistently storing silver jewelry in a zip-lock bag with an anti-tarnish tab will greatly reduce tarnishing. It may not be the most romantic setting for your jewelry, but it can be very effective at protecting it from dust, dirt, liquids, and tarnishing (making it much more romantic when worn). We provide a complimentary zip-lock bag and anti-tarnish tab with each piece of silver jewelry to help you keep it looking new.

Lastly, for those times when tarnish has poked up its ugly head, a small polishing cloth can quickly return your piece to its original splendor. It is important to know that, unlike rust, tarnish is not a corrosive condition – it will not eat away at the metal. The sooner you polish when needed, the quicker the job. But, in any case, so long as the silver is accessible, it should be shining again in no time.

For your convenience, we provide a complimentary, easy-to-use Sunshine polishing cloth with our silver jewelry. We haven’t needed them yet for WRJ jewelry, but we’ve used them on other pieces and they are fabulous.

Also, please keep in mind that all metal polishing cloths are impregnated with a polishing agent that can dirty or even damage certain gemstones. Please do not polish gems with a metal polishing cloth.

The third thing your jeweler can do for you when designing silver jewelry is to consider the relative strengths and hardness of the various types of silver in relation to how the silver is being used (e.g., as a chain, a wire, or a component) and how it fits in the design (e.g., will it be subjected to stress, strain, or possible abrasion by harder, nearby components).

In simple terms, the lower the percentage of silver in the material, the stronger the material typically will be. Ironically, because silver is priced by the ounce, the higher the percentage of silver, the higher the cost will often be. Here is a quick reference list:

Fine Silver: 99.9% silver, 0.1% trace elements
Britannia Silver: 95.84 %, 4.56% copper and other metals
Sterling Silver: 92.5%, 17.5% copper and other metals

There are other options, as well, such as Argentium Sterling Silver, rhodium-plated sterling silver, and various forms of silver fill; each of which have differing strengths and hardness.

The good news -- as the customer, you need not be the silver expert. But, you will benefit from a jewelry designer who understands and accounts for the primary attributes of these metals and designs with them accordingly.

If you are interested in reading a little more about each of these materials, please visit us at:

Silver glistens and gleams. Its radiant shine can brighten any day. When used to good effect, silver jewelry can be simply amazing. To maximize your enjoyment and minimize the care and feeding of your silver fashion jewelry, we recommend:

• pieces that maximize the use of tarnish-resistant silver materials, particularly where the silver is difficult or impossible to polish;

• pieces that use non-tarnish-resistant silver materials only in places that are readily accessible; and

• following our jewelry care tips, including storage and the use of anti-tarnish tabs.

Now, some of you (you know who you are) are saying to yourself, ‘Thanks for all that great information, but I’m not a metallurgist and have no aspirations to become one. How am I going to tell the difference between these silvers when I shop?”

In our case, it’s easy. We tell you. Each WRJ piece’s description clearly identifies the specific types of silver and other materials used. You shouldn’t have to guess at what you’re buying or be forced to ask a clerk for the most basic of information, such as, “what kind of silver is this?”

(Nor should you have some commission-paid clerk pestering you with whatever piece will generate the largest commission that weekend, or an intimidating fellow looking down his loupe at you because you don’t know what a water sapphire is (it’s actually iolite, but hey, who came up with these confusing names in the first place?!), but that’s all another article.)
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