Sterling silver jewelry is very popular. However, one of the drawbacks of Sterling silver is its tendency to tarnish very quickly. There are many products available to bring back the beautiful luster of Sterling, but too often in our busy lives, the time needed to take care of fine Sterling silver just isn’t available.
Traditional Sterling Silver is an alloy of silver (92.5%) and copper (7.5%). You will often find the numbers 925 stamped on the jewelry, guaranteeing the piece has 92.5% silver.
Pure silver is much too soft to use for most jewelry, but with the small addition of copper, silver becomes much stronger while retaining its ability to be shaped and soldered. The problem is Sterling Silver becomes tarnished quickly by the reaction of sulfur compounds in the air with the copper. The result of the copper and sulfur reaction is the formation of a dark tarnish on the metal.
Argentium Silver has basically eliminated the problem of tarnish. It is the most tarnish resistant silver available today. Peter Johns, a professor and silversmith at Middlesex University, discovered in the 1990’s he could create modern Sterling Silver that did not exhibit the problems of tarnishing. This is accomplished by substituting 1% of Germanium for copper. The silver content still remains at 92.5%, but the Argentium Silver resists tarnishing.
Germanium loves oxygen! Germanium in Argentium oxidizes first over the copper and silver in the presence of air, forming an invisible protective germanium oxide surface layer. The oxide is able to continuously replenish itself at ambient temperatures through the migration of germanium atoms to the surface. The preferential oxidation of germanium prevents the formation tarnish. This keeps your silver jewelry looking beautiful without the constant need to be cleaning the tarnish.
When working with silver alloys they need to be soft and malleable during forming or shaping processes. However, the finished articles need to be hard and durable, so that the metal is not vulnerable to scratching, denting and deformation.
Argentium Silver has the ability to be formed into complex shapes when in its fully soft condition. It is easy to solder and set stones. When finished with the construction of the jewelry piece, it can be easily hardened by means of simple heat treatment. Argentium silver’s hardness is substantially increased without the risks associated with quenching.