This post is to inform potential buyers what the difference is between argentium, sterling and fine silver...there really is a difference!
As you all know "Sterling Silver" does tarnish after time! How fast depends on the make up...sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% an other metal, usually copper, it is copper that causes sterling silver to tarnish faster than fine silver, due to the exposure to the sulpher in the air, which is caused by pollution, and other sources of sulfides. During the tarnishing process it starts out as a yellowing effect, eventually going dark. I've used sterling silver a great deal over the past 2 years and my experience has been some silver tarnishes much faster than others...which makes me think the makeup of some silver has more copper, because the silver items are all stored in the same place in the same manner, but then who knows. I've made a point to purchase my sterling silver from one supplier for this reason.
"Fine Silver" is 99.9% pure silver, with generally either copper or titanium to give it what strength it has but even so it may be too soft for large pieces. Fine silver will tarnish but slower than sterling silver and it will generally be a a discoloration rather than a dark tarnish as in the sterling silver, unless it is in an area where there is high pollution and sulpher levels, then it is more likely to be darker. Even so it is usually easier to clean fine silver than sterling silver. I've recently purchased some fine silver to see how it is to work with...I made a couple of heart pendants for the "Soups On" and I found it almost too soft for the larger of the two...but then I'm wondering if I didn't work harden it enough?
I've also made a few ball pins and a couple of small pendants...these seem to work well with a little bit of work hardening (hammering). The tumbling should help to harden the items as well.
There are other metals which can be added to silver instead of the copper, such as germanium, zinc and platinum, as well as additives such as boron and silicon.
The germanium is the additive in Argentium Sterling Silver, a relatively new product I'm using ...this is sterling silver that has some of the copper replaced with a metalloid Germanium. It is the copper in sterling silver that makes it tarnish with exposure to air. Argentium Sterling silver is highly tarnish resistant, purer, brighter, and eliminates fire scale when using a torch... dream come true as most of us dislike the tarnishing aspect of sterling silver! If you would like more information regarding the wonderful Argentium sterling silver check out the website here...
It is a little more difficult to find Argentium sterling silver in Canada so I may have to experiment more with fine silver. Argentium silver is readily available in the US but the Canadian dollar doesn't make it feasible for me to purchase it there for the time being. I will use up what I have in stock and continue working with fine silver. Fine silver has all the attributes of Argentium in that it is shinier, purer, highly tarnish resistant, eliminates firescale, and fines silver fuses easily, I've never tried to fuse Argentium. The only draw back is how soft it is!