Ag, give me sterling silver!

Gift from Ruben

Although sterling silver is not guaranteed to never corrode or tarnish, it's still one of my favourite inexpensive jewellery metals. Rather than the mix of alloys which make up usual costume jewellery — which I haven't been able to uncover, due to vagueness of the metal mix used in the jewellery — sterling silver will keep the costume jewellery piece looking shiny and silver even through rough wear.

Usual costume jewellery pieces; which I sometimes just call 'fake jewellery' because it doesn't contain a great deal of real silver, gold or jewels; features a thin covering (measured in microns) of silver or silver-like metal over a metal (copper/bronze/white metal/nickel) base. These metals allow for an extremely inexpensive piece to be made, but when these pieces sell in the region of $15-$20 regardless, such savings are questionable.

Barely having had this piece in the image above for two weeks, the ring has almost completely tarnished to copper, which, I admit is saddening considering the sentimental value as well as the lovely design of the ring itself.

Girl cooking in apron (game cg)

Care is making you rice porridge when you're sick.

I admit I'm often rough with jewellery. If I put a piece on, I expect to be able to work and play and relax in it without having to take it on and off. For example the ring which my parents gave me for one of my birthdays has been with me through washing dishes, showers, hot sweaty days, and otherwise. For a ring of 14ct gold, it handles it just fine, but any less and most pieces are not up to it.

That seems to be why it's usual for some people to have two wedding rings. One which to wear when outside the house in the public eye, and one to wear inside the house as you go around your chores and activities that are more often than not unglamorous. The 'outside' version will be gold or silver with perhaps diamonds, whereas the 'inside' ring would be made of a tough metal like iron or even wood.

In the end it's down to convenience. I don't want to be spending time each day taking jewellery on and off in order to do productive work, and/or polishing pieces. They say you can tell a lot about someone by their hands, but that's for another time. My ideal piece is jewellery I can put on and keep wearing on a permanent basis without worrying about my hands being stained with metallic smells.

Tarnished ring

I'll tell you if I want mixed nuts... Wait, metal.

Walking into my local Lovisa store today, one of the staff members approached me and recommended a pair of Diamond Simulants™ sterling silver earrings, which she mentioned could be worn when swimming and being generally active, but would never tarnish. All for the low price of $9.99AUD! Not just for silver with glass bits, but this piece included cubic zirconias. Thus, I wonder, why there is not more jewellery made from sterling silver, if it still sells for the same cheap price... if not cheaper.

Sterling silver comes with the jewellery code 925, as it comes with 92.5% by mass of silver. The more pure the silver, the less chance of corrosion, as silver is not very reactive. Additionally if it is used frequently, it will rarely tarnish. Even if tarnishing occurs, sometimes this can be fixed by creating a fairly simply cell.

I don't know whether there is a supply issue with silver (consider that kitchenware is made from sterling silver though), but perhaps it's simply easier to mould copper and plate it than to mould silver, or even perhaps the metal mixes are just a ruse for those stores to charge us more money as our jewellery repeatedly tarnishes. Why do we willingly buy into it? Is it because we all want to keep up with the latest trends and look great?

In the past, jewellery was reserved to those with the money to purchase it. As it became cheaper to produce jewellery though, like the costume pieces we have today, those of the middle classes could begin to start adorning themselves in jewellery. We as humans love to hoard, rather than have a few great things, we want a multitude of beautiful sparkles. We're like magpies.

Shana from Shakugan no Shana wears Alastair as a necklace

Less is more. Subtlety is a virtue.

Perhaps my parents have it right. My mum is always telling me 'you get what you pay for', and that it's more worthwhile to save up and purchase an expensive piece that will always look great, than little inexpensive pieces that will look tacky and always require replacing. However it seems the problem often is design in this sense — the cheaper pieces feature trendy designs that are appealing, whereas the more expensive pieces trail along more traditional lines.

I still think that sterling silver would allow us to reach a happy medium of fairly good quality jewellery without being restricted by design or otherwise, however it seems most stores don't think this, despite being evasive with what exactly is included in their mix of metal alloys used in jewellery. This information would be extremely helpful for those wanting to make sure their jewellery lasted. Though it is still better than claiming their jewellery to be sterling silver when it is not.

Last but not least though, if you ever want to check if your jewellery is 'real', there will be numbers engraved on the inside or behind a piece if it contains higher quantities of precious metals. As I mentioned with sterling silver (925), 14ct gold, for example, is 585. You can read about the other jewellery marks here, though some other places name them differently.

I love the colour of silver though, so it is a shame that most pieces of silver jewellery tarnished so easily. Perhaps in the future the way to go if you want silver is to head straight to the pricey platinum. It's guaranteed to always look great!