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There appears to be alot of misunderstanding around the differences between Surgical Steel and Sterling Silver jewellery, so I thought I would write a blog post to explain what materials I use in my jewellery and what the differences between the two are.
First things first - There are two types of stainless steel commonly used in jewellery making, one is 304 and the other is 316L. 316L (Surgical Steel) is the best quality steel and the steel that is used in all 'Surgical Steel Jewellery' (Belly Bars etc) along with medical equipment and even cutlery! 316L Steel is made up of a group of metal alloys and is hypo-allergenic which means it will not react to your skin if you have allergies to those particular metals. (My own Sister has an allergy to Nickel, so she is always my Guinea Pig with new items ha ha! I'm happy to report that she hasn't reacted to any of my jewellery.) Surgical steel is hard-wearing which is perfect for everyday wear and regular wear because although it 'can' scratch, it will not scratch or break as easily as Sterling Silver. Steel does not oxidise which means it does not tarnish or discolour and it does not require regular cleaning. Steel also has a beautful polished effect which looks almost mirror like. The only real downside to buying Surgical Steel jewellery is that the item cannot be re-sized or be repaired as easily as Sterling Silver, particularly rings, however this isn't relevant to the items that I create.
Pure Sterling Silver contains around 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of other metals (usually Copper), this is because Silver on it's own is too soft to be made into jewellery, it would simply bend, break or snag in a real life scenario. Silver gradually developes tiny imperfections which although can leave a lovely finish on most items, for engraved items it is not such a good look, particularly for photo engraved items. One of the downsides to Sterling Silver jewellery is how easily it oxidises and looks 'old' and 'dirty,' I also find that some Sterling Silver jewellery leaves a green tinge on my skin when it needs cleaning - it requires regular cleaning to look brand new again. Silver is prone to dents and scratches, which again is not what you want when wearing an engraved item everyday. Sterling silver is much much more expensive to source and there are so many fakes on the market!
The Materials I use
Following on from my explanations and comparisons above, it is very easy to see why I favour using Surgical Steel Jewellery over Sterling Silver in all of my engraved jewellery. There appears to be many people who believe that Surgical Steel will react with their skin, or discolour because it is not as expensive as Sterling Silver but this is simply not true! If anything, Sterling Silver will discolour much sooner and also scratch much sooner than Surgical Steel. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, does Surgical Steel put you off buying jewellery? Does the oxidisation and constant cleaning of Sterling Silver get on your nerves? I'd love to know!