The different types of silver used to make jewelry are often not known to the public who struggles to differentiate at a glance the type of metal used.

And yet it is important because if silver is a precious metal, justifying the price of sterling silver jewelry, it is not the case of poor metals used to make jewelry plated or using alpaca.

silver necklace

Sterling silver necklace

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Sterling silver 

In the sense defined by French law, silver is said to be sterling and is recognized as a precious metal if it comprises at least 80% pure silver.

The hallmark affixed to the jewel stipulates the title of the silver used for its manufacture : the most common are 800 silver, 925 silver called sterling silver and 950 silver.

A jewel in sterling silver has a longer life. Proper maintenance keeps its brilliance without fear that repeated friction can make it disappear. In addition, it can take on aging a patina that can be maintained.

In case of shock and deep scratches, it's possible to brush and then polish it to restore its original appearance. You can even consider to modify it, it will be possible to cut it, to weld it and to integrate other stones.


silver rings

Sterling silver rings inlaid with precious wood (read more here (fr))


Plated silver 

Silver plated jewelery is made from a lean metal coated with a layer of pure silver deposited by electrolysis.

The method involves dipping the jewel in a solution containing silver ions and circulating a current; this causes the deposit of these ions on the jewel of any metal.

The surface layer of silver may be from a few microns thick to several tenths of a millimeter. The amount of silver actually used is extremely small.

We can recognize these plated jewels by weighing them with the hand, we realize in an instant that they are lighter than a jewel in sterling silver.

With time, shocks and friction, the superficial layer of silver can disappear and reveal the base metal which is of another color. Wear quickly reveals the true nature of the jewel.


silver diademe

Elven silver plated diadem made for a wedding (read more here (fr))


German silver 

Also called Alpaca, German silver is the name of an alloy of metals imitating, to be mistaken, the reflections of silver.

Composed of zinc, nickel and copper, this alloy has been known for centuries and is now used by industry, particularly in the manufacture of electrical contacts.

It is lighter than silver and oxidizes quickly by taking a greenish coloring; in contrast to silver, which is a precious metal that is very resistant to oxidation, but reacts with sulphides while blackening.

Alpaca jewel

Alpaca bracelet showing how polished alpaca looks like silver. Most often, these jewels are largely encrusted with other materials


Jewels made in German silver are hallmarked "alpaca". It's very common to find this kind of jewelry in Latin America. They are nevertheless composed of nickel, which is a natural allergen. This is why the sale of nickel is very controlled in France.

French law states that it's forbidden to sell objects having a cutaneous use containing nickel. This obviously concerns jewelry.


Free Bonus : Download our complete guide to silver jewelry (fr).

You'll discover everything you need to know to shop online or in store.

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September 02, 2019 — Hugo Maherault

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