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We’ve all heard of silver, but what on earth is Argentium silver? And no, this isn’t a type of silver that comes from Argentina.
Argentium silver is a relatively new brand of modern tarnish resistant silver alloys on the market. The alloy has been patented by the Argentium Silver Company in the UK and is identified by the logo featuring a winged unicorn.
Argentium silver differs from other silver alloys in a few significant ways, resulting in a durable, tough metal.
Let’s take a look at what Argentium silver is.
But before that, here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the metal:
- Whitest metal in jewelry use
- Tarnish resistant
- Highly durable
- Made using recycled silver
- No need for plating
- Antibacterial and hypoallergenic
- High percentage of pure silver
- More expensive
- Not as available as sterling silver
The Argentium Silver Company
The Argentium Silver was invented by Peter Johns who researched how to eliminate firestains in sterling silver. His research included using germanium in silver alloys, and while he was successful in eliminating firestain, he also discovered that adding germanium to silver resulted in a more durable, whiter, tarnish-resistant and heat-hardening metal.
For genuine Argentium silver by the Argentium Silver Company, look for the winged unicorn logo surrounded by the words: Made In Argentium Silver.
Because the alloy is patented and trademarked, this means that the alloy cannot be copied or produced by anyone else.
Argentium Silver Composition
Typical sterling silver alloys consist of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or other metals. Argentium silver contains more pure silver and replaces some of the copper in the alloy with germanium. There’s also some percentage of zinc and boron in the alloy.
Argentium silver comes in two grades:
- .932 – Grade with 93.2% of silver
- .960 – Grade with 96% silver
Both these grades exceed standard requirements for sterling silver. This makes it a more valuable version of sterling silver.
Why is Argentium Silver Environmentally Friendly?
Mining silver ore takes up large amounts of energy and has a devastating impact on the environment. There is no such thing as ethical silver mining. The Argentium Silver Company only uses recycled silver which they guarantee can be traced back to the source.
Making jewelry from recycled silver only uses about 5% of the energy and resources required to create pieces from new silver. It’s a great step forward in easing the impact on the environment.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver
Argentium silver is quite different from sterling silver. Here are some ways in which these two silver alloys differ:
- Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver: Durability
Argentium silver is much more durable than sterling silver in that it’s more resistant to scratching, denting and losing shape. This makes it ideal for jewelry that can be worn on a frequent basis.
Although Argentium silver is harder, this is only after it’s been heat treated. In its softer state, it’s malleable and easy to work with, which means that jewelers can work the metal into any design.
This video shows how Argentium silver and sterling silver react to being heated. You can see that Argentium silver hardens when heated.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver: Tarnish Resistance
Unlike sterling silver, which tends to tarnish easily, Argentium silver is highly tarnish resistant. It can still tarnish but this would be under extreme conditions. Testing has demonstrated that Argentium 932 is about 7 times harder than sterling silver and Argentium 960 is about 8 times harder.
What this translates into for the jewelry buyer is lower maintenance and more shine and luster. It’s much easier to keep Argentium silver jewelry looking reflective and shiny.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver – Color
Argentium silver is white in color than sterling silver. In fact, it’s whiter than all other silver-hued metals, including platinum, rhodium and white gold. It’s also brighter than sterling and stands out with its luster.
This means that Argentium silver will never need to be plated as it already has out-whited all the other white metals.
Notice the white hue of this Argentium silver bangle. See it here.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver – Antibacterial and Hypoallergenic Nature
Unlike sterling silver which can sometimes contain nickel or other metals that cause reactions, Argentium silver is hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial. There have not been any reports so far about allergic reactions caused by Argentium silver and it’s unlikely that this will ever happen.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver – Firestain Resistance
Firestain, also called firescale, refers to the dark marks that can be seen on sterling silver objects when it’s been heated.
This happens when the copper in the sterling silver alloy oxidizes and appears on the surface as a stain. While this isn’t a major issue for the consumer, it makes working with sterling silver difficult for jewelry makers.
The stain can be removed but involves a lot of chemicals, time and labor.
Argentium silver is resistant to firestaining and takes out all that extra work required to remove a firestain. This makes Argentium silver environmentally-friendly as well as it reduces the need to remove or plate over the firescale.
Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver – Price
Needless to say, with all these benefits come a higher price. Argentium silver is more expensive than sterling for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the company has to maintain the quality, patents and trademarks of Argentium silver, all of which requires ongoing costs.
Secondly, the alloy itself is more valuable as it contains germanium, which is a costly metal, and more silver.
However, regardless of the higher price, the benefits of Argentium silver make it an excellent alternative to sterling silver.
Where Can You Buy Argentium Silver Jewelry?
Example of Argentium Silver Pendant. See it here.
Many retailers sell silver jewelry made of Argentium silver and they will list this in their product description. If purchasing on a site like Amazon or Etsy, you’ll find some beautiful, artisan Argentium silver jewelry pieces. These are generally well-crafted and reasonably priced.
Always purchase from a trusted and reputable retailer and ask about the alloy specifically if you have doubts. They should be able to answer your questions on Argentium silver and have an understanding of the specifics of the metal.