Stainless Steel VS Sterling Silver: Which One Is Better? (2022)

Last Updated on December 29, 2021

Stainless steel is a durable alloy used in several industries, including jewelry and architecture. Sterling silver, on the other hand, an alloy that consists of 92.5% pure silver known for its malleability. In jewelry, stainless steel is used for daily accessories, while sterling silver is known for intricate designs and elegance.

If you’re looking for a shiny and elegant piece of accessory, nothing can beat the lustrous sparkle of gems and unique stone. However, jewelry made with either stainless steel or sterling silver does come close. With similar appearances, the “stainless steel vs sterling silver” debate has been active for years. What alloy should you choose if you want to find the best accessories? Let’s find out.

What Is Stainless Steel?

According to Britannica, stainless steel is an alloy that contains a bit of chromium in its composition. Chromium is a gray-looking metal that increases both strength and corrosion resistance when used in alloys. Hence, stainless steel got this shiny, gray appearance which is hard to rust or get corroded. Stainless steel is also quite resistant to heat. 

Stainless steel doesn’t only use chromium as a part of its alloy composition. Various elements like nickel, titanium, copper, selenium, and more Science-y sounding things are in the mixture. With these combinations, there are approximately 150 stainless steel variations available right now. 

Why Is Stainless Steel Used In Jewelry? 

The main selling point for stainless steel is its durability and resistance. It is resistant to heat, rust, scratches, and oxidation. You can wear your stainless steel earrings without worrying about them getting affected by the hot or cold weather. It is a good option for people who are seeking daily jewelry. 

Stainless steel is also a very low-maintenance piece of jewelry; you don’t need to clean it frequently. Cleaning is also quite easy and straightforward. The user can simply use liquid soap and warm water to remove oils and dirt. Add a little bit of elbow grease to the surface, and your jewelry is as good as new. 

Another factor as to why stainless steel is prominent in the jewelry industry is its versatility. You can make a necklace, a bracelet, an earring, or any other fancy accessory out of it. Its low price point is what usually seals the deal for jewelry customers. 

Unfortunately, stainless steel is not known for its repairability. Although durable, jewelry made from this alloy is not dent-proof. Once it is bent or broken, you might as well consider buying a new set of jewelry instead of repair. Stainless steel can trigger allergic reactions for some people.

Pros:

  • Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and rust.
  • It has good durability (can stand wear and tear well) 
  • Shiny and visible from miles away
  • Very affordable for jewelry
  • Versatility

Cons:

  • Easily bent
  • Not good for repairs
  • Can cause allergies 

What Is Sterling Silver? 

Sterling Silver, on the other hand, is an element represented by the symbol “Ag.” Its metal alloy composition is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. One of the commonly mixed metals with silver is copper. Zinc is the next widely integrated element in a sterling silver alloy. For additional longevity and durability, elements like platinum, silicon, and boron are included in the mix. 

If the Sterling Silver alloy is created with 92.5% silver, why do jewelry manufacturers add metals? Would it be better if they just make jewelry out of 100% silver since this metal has more value in its pure form? Wouldn’t they make more money if they add more silver to their products? 

The answer to this is durability. Pure silver is a relatively soft metal; it can’t really stand wear and tear that well, unlike its stainless steel counterpart. Hence, if you want a piece of silver jewelry to last, you need other metals to make it more durable and increase its hardness and strength. 

Why Is Sterling Silver Used In Jewelry? 

What makes the Sterling Silver impractical to use daily is what makes it a special kind of jewelry material: it is soft. Jewelry makers can shape this material into numerous kinds of designs. That’s why materials made with silver have more intricate designs and elegance in color. Sterling Silver has this unique luster that fits in with a classy look that even other precious metals don’t have. 

Due to its softness, Sterling Silver is pretty malleable and versatile. You can find this material on earrings, necklaces, rings, and even cutleries. Sterling Silver can also be found on musical instruments like brass and saxophone. Any repair is easily doable on the damaged jewelry. The jewelry maker or repairman will likely just reshape the metal or make another one from a mold. 

Unfortunately, it has the same problem as its Stainless Steel counterpart. The Sterling Silver can quickly lose its shape over time due to wear and tear. In addition, this type of material can receive damage if the user is too rough while cleaning. 

Additionally, because it doesn’t have tons of resistance properties, jewelry made from this material tends to be prone to scratches and tarnishing. Buying sterling silver jewelry will also cost a lot more than its stainless steel counterpart. If you’re from the US, you might also want to check for the 925 stamps.

This helps a lot if you’re really in the market for jewelry made with pure silver. The advertising can be quite misleading without this stamp. 

Pros:

  • More affordable than other precious materials
  • Very malleable, good for using intricate designs and timeless beauty
  • It has a unique shine that stainless steel and other materials don’t have
  • Easily repairable due to its soft property
  • Sterling silver usually looks great in most fashion style

Cons: 

  • Soft material; can easily receive damage from small wear and tear
  • Extra precaution in cleaning is required to avoid unnecessary damage
  • It’s more likely to get tarnished 
  • Very expensive to make and repair

Stainless Steel VS Sterling Silver: What Should You Choose? 

Choosing jewelry should not be a restricting experience. You should always aspire to buy something that resonates with your style. Most importantly, get a piece that will not be expensive for your budget. After all, looking great doesn’t have to be that expensive. However, since both stainless steel and sterling silver have a similar appearance, the choice should be made with other considerations. Here are some tips to help you decide what jewelry material is the right one for you. 

Choose Stainless Steel If:

Only choose jewelry made with stainless steel if you’re on a budget, and need daily jewelry to wear. It has a low price point and is easier to maintain than its counterpart. It doesn’t have the same appeal as sterling silver, since it is not made with precious metal. Be aware that its sale value would be lower than the sterling silver jewelry.

Choose Sterling Silver If: 

Choose sterling silver if you’re planning to use the jewelry on an elegant occasion, or as a timeless jewelry collection. This jewelry should not be worn regularly, or you will have to get them repaired frequently too. Its sala value is very high since it is made with precious metal. However, do note that it has a lower value than silver because it is not pure.