Surgical Steel vs Sterling Silver – What's the difference? Which is better? This blog post will give you a quick guide on how to differentiate between these two metals, and which one is best for you.
The most obvious difference between surgical steel and sterling silver pieces of jewellery is price. Surgical Steel itself costs less than sterling silver so it has become a more affordable option for people who want to buy something nice but can't afford gold or platinum. It also doesn't tarnish as easily as other metals do, so it requires less maintenance from its wearer. Surgical steel definitely has its perks!
Sterling silver jewellery comes with a little bit of an extra cost however, you're getting quality that lasts much longer.
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. 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. Although Sterling Silver does look beautiful when polished up and cleaned, it is also long wearing and will look brand new for many years as long as you look after it.
The Materials I Use
Following on from my explanations and comparisons above, I do use both materials on some of my most popular jewellery including necklaces, chains, bracelet charms and bracelet chains. The reason being I have some customers who prefer the lower price mark of Surgical Steel without the compromise on quality and then some customers will only buy Sterling Silver so I like to cater to both. 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!