Marked with the “flying unicorn” logo, Argentium Silver is the brand name patented and trademarked by the Argentium Silver Company in the United Kingdom. This modern version of sterling silver contains more pure silver than its traditional counterpart, and its unique combination of metals gives it a natural brightness that makes it outshine gold, platinum and traditional sterling silver. With a tarnish-resistant, durable finish that is free of any plating, argentium won’t chip or crack. It’s these qualities that make argentium an appealing choice for your jewelry items.
In 1990, Peter Johns and his team of researchers at the Art and Design Research Institute (ADRI) in the School of Art and Design at Middlesex University, started to investigate the effects of adding various amounts of Germanium to silver alloys. Through their research, the team discovered that the resulting sterling silver was more resistant to tarnish, exhibited an increased ductility, had an increased thermal and electrical resistance, and eliminated the need for firestain removal, making this re-vamped metal “environmentally-friendly.”
Traditional sterling silver combines 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% other metals (usually copper). Pieces of jewelry made from sterling are usually stamped with “.925” to indicate their purity. Argentium silver uses more pure silver and is available in two grades–.932 and .960. The number associated with each grade indicates the percentage of pure silver contained in the piece.
Prior to the introduction of Argentium Silver, the most highly-revered silver was the United Kingdom’s Britannia Silver which required a minimum pure silver content of 95.8%. While both grades of Argentium contain more pure silver than traditional sterling, only the 96.0% Argentium contains more pure silver than the UK’s Britannia Silver.
Durability and Versatility
Some sterling silver jewelry pieces are prone to scratches, dents, and deformation, especially if you wear them daily. Argentium Silver is stronger and more durable than traditional sterling, making it more resistant to these types of damages.
Ideally, you want a metal that is soft and malleable to work with when forming a piece of jewelry, but also hardens in its finished state. Argentium Silver is known for its superior hardness and durability, and unlike traditional sterling silver, it can be hardened effectively by heat treatments without any negative side effects. Easily manipulated in its softened state, Argentium is an ideal material to use to create various shapes and settings for jewelry.
Argentium silver lends itself to modern technologies because it has a unique property that allows it to be welded and fused. Four Argentium Silver alloys are available–two for mill products and two for casting applications–ensuring you get the perfect alloy for any manufacturing project.
Color and Tarnish Resistance
Brighter than white gold, sterling silver, and platinum, Argentium Silver is the whitest metal with the longest-lasting shine. With no plating to chip away or tarnish, Argentium’s natural white-silver color is the same throughout the entire piece.
Tests conducted using a colorimeter and the CIELAB color measurement system showed Argentium displayed superior brightness and whiteness compared to other precious metals. In fact, Argentium is approximately 4.5 times brighter and twice as white as traditional sterling silver.
Metals are regularly tested for “tarnish resistance” in the jewelry industry. These tests are designed to replicate the effects of exposing the metal to environmental elements such as sulphur, perspiration, and ultraviolet rays. Designed to test corrosion on precious metals, the sulphur test reproduces the gases found in the atmosphere and in other substances often used daily. To determine the effects of perspiration and skin contact with metal, the perspiration test is performed. Finally, the ultraviolet (UV) test checks metals for susceptibility to UV rays and photosensitivity. Results indicate that Argentium 935 is about 7 times more tarnish resistant to sterling silver, while Argentium 960 is nearly 8 times more resistant.
Firestain (or firescale) appears as a dark stain on the surface of sterling silver objects when heated. A result of oxygen in the flame attacking the copper alloy found in sterling silver, the firestain is actually a copper oxide that penetrates the surface of the silver object. Prolonged heating and hammering cause the firestain to affect deeper layers of the silver, making it more difficult to remove.
While it may not sound like a big problem initially, abrasives and acid may be required to remove a deeply penetrating firestain. This labor-intensive process leads to an increase in labor and manufacturing costs, as well as environmental and workplace health concerns due to the toxic nature of the chemicals used in firestain removal.
Test results on Argentium Silver show excellent firestain resistance during heating, while both traditional sterling and standard deox silver alloy both showed deep layers of firestain. Since heating does not result in firestain on Argentium, acid and abrasives are not required to remove the staining during production, saving time, cost, and exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Conservation and Environmentally-Friendly Practices
The Argentium Silver Company prides itself on using only recycled silver for production and guarantees traceability of its raw silver. Due to the firestain-resistant nature of Argentium, the use of toxic chemicals used to remove firestain is eliminated, helping to protect the environment. Many properties of Argentium allow it to be manufactured more quickly and efficiently, decreasing labor and resource costs and cutting back on manufacturing time. All Argentium alloys are nickel-free, resulting in jewelry pieces that can be worn by individuals with nickel allergies.
Argentium is a low-maintenance metal, making it very easy to care for and keep clean. At Brilliance, we strive to provide you with the highest quality metals and offer several Argentium wedding rings including the Mens Diamond Wedding Ring in Silver, Black Diamond Mens Wedding Ring in Silver, and the Black Diamond Mens Silver Wedding Ring.