I use both Sterling Silver and Argentium Sterling Silver for most of my work. My metal choice usually depends on the requirements of the piece I have designed. Some of my designs call for the use of Fine Silver and occasionally I use 14K, 18K and 24K gold as accents.
Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver. It can be used for some designs as is, but often needs to be strengthened by work hardening and/or by adding an additional alloy.
Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and the remaining 7.5 % is usually copper. This alloy gives strength to the silver but will eventually cause the metal to tarnish over time. It is, however, a great metal to work with for many jewelry applications and allows jewelry artisans to create beautiful and very affordable pieces of jewelry. If properly cared for it will need little special care.
Argentium Sterling Silver The Argentium silver I use is 93% or more, pure silver, and of the remaining 7%, some of the copper has been replaced with Germanium. The Germanium makes the silver highly tarnish resistant and is often suitable for people with sensitive skin! Even though Argentium requires some work methods that differ from working with Sterling Silver, it also has many attributes that are invaluable to the artisan and it can be easily hardened for strength. And of course that tarnish resistance attribute is pretty wonderful!
Other Materials Sometimes I work with alternative metals and other materials, which may include Copper, Nu Gold, Steel and pretty much anything that captures my attention. Each piece of my work has a clear description of all materials so you will never have to wonder what it is made of.
Nu Gold is a nickel free alloy I sometimes work with that is similar to brass but because of it’s composition, (15% Zinc), it has a less, well, less brassy look to it! It is sometimes referred to as “Merlin’s Gold”. Occasionally I will reproduce a popular style in Nu Gold for a wonderful look at a very nice price.
I love working in copper because of the interesting and fun techniques that it can be used for. Some designs just beg to be made in Copper! The copper I use is 99.9% pure copper. Since both Copper and Nu Gold can react to the environment, I usually apply several layers of a high quality sealant for strong protection and easy care.