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Silver- The Precious White Metal

Silver- The Precious White Metal.

Pure silver (Ag) has a melting point of 1761 (F)/ 961 (C) and its specific gravity is 10.49 units, whereas sterling silver has a melting point of 1640 (F)/ 893 (C) and its specific gravity being 10.36 units. Silver is the most popular metal, owing to a number of factors.

(1) Silver has many of the characteristics of gold, for example, it is very malleable and ductile.

(2) It is a precious metal and therefore anything made in silver has intrinsic value.

(3) Silver is a relatively cheap metal with which to work, taking into account the amounts required to produce small pieces of jewelry.

(4) It has a beauty and colour which are quite distinctive.

Pure silver, which is known as 'fine silver', is, like fine gold, a very soft metal and is therefore of little use to the jeweller in this form, except as a plating metal. It is therefore alloyed with other metals to produce harder silver alloys. The main metal used to produce these silver alloys is copper, a small amount of which has a considerable hardening effect on the metal without impairing the malleability or ductility to any high degree.

Silver Alloys:

Sterling Silver

This is the most common alloy in use in the world today; sometimes known as standard silver. It has a fine silver content of 925 parts per thousand, the remaining 75 parts being copper.

Britannia Silver

This is a higher standard of silver alloy containing 958.4 parts fine silver and 41.6 parts copper. The alloy is little used nowadays .

{This standard was introduced in England by Act of Parliament in 1697 to replace sterling silver as the obligatory standard for items of "wrought plate". The lion passant gardant hallmark denoting sterling was replaced with "the figure of a woman commonly called Britannia", and the leopard's head mark of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths replaced with a "lion's head erased".} -
wikipedia

One distinct disadvantage of silver is its affinity for atmospheric sulphur, which produces a golden brown stain or tarnish film. This necessitates regular cleaning. When silver is subjected to successive heating, be it for soldering, annealing, casting, etc., the copper in the alloy oxidizes and forms a grey stain on the surface of the metal. This is known as 'firestain' and can pose quite a problem in the finishing stages, particularly if the piece has been subjected to any hammering or rolling processes and the stain has been pressed down into the metal. When it is impractical to remove the stain by the conventional methods of filing, sanding and stoning, it becomes necessary to plate over the stain either with fine silver (which has a lesser affinity for sulphur than does sterling silver and , therefore does not tarnish as quickly) or rhodium, one of the platinum group of metals.


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