What Is The Difference Between Stainless Steel And Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver

Is an alloy of silver and other metals usually copper but it must contain 92.5% silver by weight to be called sterling silver. If it is less than will catalogued as “white metal”.

There are many types of stainless steel but they fall into two main groups

1) alloys of iron carbon, chromium and nickel

2) alloys of iron, carbon and chromium.

Those that contain nickel have an austenitic atomic structure and are non magnetic and those that don’t are ferritic or martensitic in structure and are magnetic. The most common austenitic stainless steels contain 18% chromium and 8 % nickel whist those containing no nickel typically contain 18% chromium. In both cases they contain around 0.15% carbon. Sterling silver is a soft malleable metal with little mechanical strength and it will oxidize (rust) which turns it black.

Stainless steel

It is hard, rigid and very strong and as the name suggests appears not to rust, but in fact what happens is a thin almost invisible transparent oxide layer forms on the surface. This layer unlike the black layer that forms on silver creates a barrier between the metal and the atmosphere (air) which prevents any further oxide from forming. The most common stainless steel used in jewelry is 316L which is a low carbon austenitic (non magnetic) steel. It is also used along with titanium for surgical implants. 

Stainless steel is, like all steels, an alloy based on iron. Stainless steel is often an alloy of iron comprising at least 10 weight percent of chromium. Stainless steel is a large family of alloys which contain at least iron and chromium and carbon. However for many types, stainless steel also contains some of nickel, manganese and sometimes molybdenum with as little carbon as possible. There can also be small to trace amounts of other elements to improve specific properties.

how to tell the difference between silver and stainless steel

By Delicate Charms

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