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Although sterling silver is a time tested staple of the jewellery industry, I feel it leaves something to be desired in areas of tarnish resistance, durability, and colouration. After a year or two of using sterling for all of my products I noticed they tended to tarnish and lose their shine quite quickly, and lack the same bright white colour as pure silver.
I wanted an alloy that was more durable than sterling silver, but with similar colour and shine to pure silver. I began doing my research and found 935 Argentium silver. Originally created in 1991 and patented in 1998, Argentium was created around 700 years after sterling silver, and represents an impressive leap in alloy technology. In comparison to sterling silver, Argentium silver is far more tarnish resistant, scratch resistant, brighter, and ethically sourced.
Argentium silver is created with not only a larger proportion of silver (93.5% instead of 92.5% in sterling), but also with a very thin layer of germanium on the surface. This layer of germanium isolates the copper in the mixture from oxygen in the atmosphere, preventing the formation of copper oxide. Copper oxide is what causes sterling silver to slowly dull and darken, so if this compound isn’t produced, tarnishing doesn’t occur.
Another issue with sterling silver is it’s tendancy to react poorly with salt water. Sometimes even forming a yellow tinge. Because this is an Australian jewellery brand, I really wanted to make my pieces ocean proof if possible, since I know how much my customers love the beach. This is where the germanium layer comes in useful again. It’ll block water just as easily as it’ll block air, so the salty ocean water won’t be able to come into contact with the copper and form weird compounds that we really don’t want on our rings.
Argentium silver is more resistant to scratching and denting than sterling silver. Since my pieces are designed for daily wear, this is a big deal. Once again this is due to the smaller amount of copper, which is quite a soft metal, and the presence of germanium, which is reasonably hard. There’s not much more to say on this topic.
It’s regrettable that the precious metals industry is so awful when it comes to ethics and environmental impact. When sourcing suppliers for Urban Sterling, I legitimately had to search for a while to find “slavery free” companies. Furthermore, finding sustainably sourced metals is also a challenge. Sterling silver can be sketchy, because it can be produced by anyone, anywhere. Argentium silver, on the other hand, is produced by Argentium Company. Argentium Company produces their alloy from 100% sustainably sourced, mostly recycled silver, and has certified slavery free supply chains (unfortunately this is considered pretty impressive as far as precious metals companies go).
On top of this, my manufacturer Palloys is the only casting company in Australia willing to be subject to yearly investigations by the Conflict Metals group. This ensures that Palloys is fully compliant with the LBMA, OECD and World Gold Council Conflict Gold Policies. All precious metal issued by Palloys is sourced in a way that does not cause, support or benefit unlawful conflict, or contribute to human rights abuses or breaches of international law.
Interested in getting some Argentium silver jewellery? Shop my range of Australian made handcrafted rings.