Designing with sterling silver

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  • I love working with sterling silver, I choose to work with it because of the benefits associated with working with it and wearing it. Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, hence the term .925 sterling silver! Silver (fine silver) alone is very soft- almost liquid in nature and not easy to work with. The added copper gives it strength and durability.

There are two different types of sterling silver.. Half-hard and Dead-soft. The terms are pretty self-explanatory… Half hard is just that, harder and harder to work with. Dead soft is much more malleable (bendable) than half hard. Half hard sterling will hold it’s shape very well, especially when soldered.

For my purposes, I use half hard sterling because of the wonderful shape it holds when working with it. Since I use hot connections created with a torch and silver solder, half hard is perfect. If you were to do wire wrapping, dead soft sterling would generally be more desirable.

If you like bright and shiny, sterling silver is perfect! It has a wonderful bright, clean shine, almost mirror like in some cases. Therefore, it makes for beautiful jewelry! Although, it can oxidize (tarnish & change color) over time, this discoloration is easily removed by wiping and polishing with a jewelry cloth. These are easily available at local craft stores. I always include a cleaning cloth with my jewelry.


Cost wise, sterling is more affordable than gold and platinum. When purchasing raw sterling silver, it is measured in the troy ounce and often sold by the foot. I have a few great suppliers in the USA that I use, I wish there was one local, maybe someday! The price of sterling silver per troy ounce is generally stable at the moment.

My #1 favorite benefit of sterling silver is that it has no nickel in it, YES that’s what I said, NO nickel!

Nickel, often found in costume jewelry, is what can react with the skin and cause discomfort, pain and redness for some. Due to it being nickel-free, this problem is often avoided when wearing sterling silver! Basically, when you buy something marked .925 Sterling silver you are buying something made exclusively of the 2 metals mentioned above- silver and copper. There are some people who react to copper but generally, it’s a very comfortable metal to wear. I have sensitive skin, it sounds crazy but one of my ears reacts to earrings with nickel in it & the other does not.. therefore, I stick with sterling silver to be safe!

I have been working hard making new pendants and earrings this past month! I am wearing a pair of my post earrings at the moment, I have had them in for the past few days and not a note of discomfort- yea!!! Every once in a while I just can’t resist and I end up keeping something I’ve made! I guess you could say I am my own guinea pig for the metal I use to create my designs!


Have a great week and check out my FB page and etsy shop below!
Sunshine On Water


One thought on “Designing with sterling silver

    shyla said:
    April 4, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Hi Betsy, Thanks for the tutorial on metalsmithing! I love you jewelry…I may have to pierce my ears so I can wear those beautiful silver earrings! I am not receiving your bolgs via my email, should I be on a list somewhere?

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