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Does sterling silver ever rust?

I’m mainly a lurker on the list. I am a beader (primarily a
portrait bead embroiderer), and do not do any silversmithing or
bench work.

Simply put: does solid sterling .925 ever rust? I bought some
"sterling" beads from a vendor at the Whole Bead show. Most of the
beads are fabulous, but I have one “unusual strand.” The design of
the bead in question looks like this: each end looks gently crimped,
so there are little folds in the silver. When the beads are strung
together, they kind of nestle together. I used a few of these beads
in a bracelet, and a few drops of water splashed onto them. Lo and
behold, rust has formed near the crimpy ends. I don’t know how to
prove it is rust, but it looks like rust (as opposed to tarnish). My
hubby took a close look at them, and agreed that it looks like rust,
but might take them to work to view under a microscope or something.
(He works in manufacturing and they examine their parts under special
equipment.)

Is your guess that I got ripped off on this strand?

Thanks,
Donna

It is possible that the beads were finished by tumbling in a
rouge-based media. That strand may not have been cleaned well
enough, leaving some rouge inside the beads. Does the “rust” rub or
wash off?

What did you use in stringing the beads?

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com

       Simply put: does solid sterling .925 ever rust? ..." The
design of the bead in question looks like this: each end looks
gently crimped, so there are little folds in the silver.... Lo and
behold, rust has formed near the crimpy ends. Is your guess that I
got ripped off on this strand? 

Donna, Sterling does not rust. My guess is that the beads were
tumble finished by tumbling with steel shot, or with steel pins in a
magnetic tumbler, and that a bit of the shot or one or two of the
pins got trapped inside one of the beads. That will rust, sometimes
even stainless can rust if exposed to acidic conditions (like
pickle). The rust forms on the steel, but can get spread around as
it forms, depositing on the silver and sort of adhering a bit to it.
It can be annoying. I’ve seen this sort of thing happen on gold
items as well silver beads, when some bit of steel shot got trapped in
the item somewhere.

Peter

If it’s silver it will not rust. Ferrous metals rust. If you can
pick it up with a magnet it’s ferrous [iron bearing] metal, not
silver.

Jerry in Kodiak

Donna-- Try a magnet on them. If it is really rust, they should be
attracted to the magnet, which means they are iron or mild steel
underneath. Silver should not react to water. Sorry!

–Noel

Sterling can’t rust, because rust is iron oxide. It’s possible that
bits of iron or steel got involved with the crimped area (came off
the crimping tool), but more likely that the beads aren’t sterling.

Tas
www.earthlywealth.com

Is your guess that I got ripped off on this strand?

Not necessarily I have noted that my fine silver will oxidize a
reddish brown in a high moisture area i.e. humidity I need to keep
all silver wrapped in anti tarnish paper. :slight_smile:

Teri
America’s ONLY Cameo Artist
http://www.cameoartist.com

Thanks everyone for your helpful responses. This message has a
surprising twist to it. I held a magnet over the beads in question
and they did not stick. Guess what stuck to the magnet? The beads
adjacent to the “rusting” ones!!! The ones I did not suspect. I’m
wondering if something from these beads washed off onto the
crimped-end silver beads, and caused the rust to gather in those
crimped ends. (The crimped ends are directly next to the other
beads.)

I used the magnet over the remainder of the crimped end beads (still
on the temporarily strung strand from the vendor), and nothing
stuck. But, the remainder of the unused beads that were adjacent to
the previously mentioned beads adhered to the magnet. I took a
little jar of water, and put some of the crimped-end beads to soak
for awhile, and allowed them to air-dry. No rust yet. Weird, but
the beads that I think caused the rust do not have any rust on them
that I can see. I’m wondering if they rusted inside near the
stringing hole, and that ran out onto the silver beads?

I feel like it’s CSI around here, doing these experiments on my
little stash of “silver.”

I contacted the vendor by phone, and they were very nice,
apologetic. They asked me to ship them back the beads in question
and they will then immediately credit my charge. Yet, I’m
wondering, if you were in business for awhile selling sterling
beads, wouldn’t you know to first check them with a magnet?
Granted, I did not know to do that (I do now!!), but I’m not a
vendor, either. Your thoughts?

Pam C. on our list asked what I used to string the beads on the
bracelet: I used the coated wire, Beadalon. I’ve never had trouble
with that before.

It was also suggested to me that I bring a magnet with me next time
I plan to purchase more silver beads. Does anyone have a certain
strength (is it referred to as gauss???) of magnet to recommend that
I bring?

Thanks again,
Donna

Donna, as a vendor who probably deals with more silver than you and
I would ever see in a lifetime, yours probably just doesn’t have the
time or manpower to check silver strands to make sure he’s getting
silver. Like the rest of us, he is given a statement (either verbal
or written) saying that what he’s buying is sterling silver. If he
gets too many complaints, then he’ll go to the source and find out
what the culprit is. Generally, when a supplier says it’s silver, it
is.

Now as far as the round beads that are being affected by your
magnet, did you have these for a long time? Could you have purchased
silver plate at the time not knowing there was a difference between
SS & SP? In the past two years, I’ve learned many such lessons and
now have a good bit of SP that I just don’t use because at the time I
bought it, I didn’t know any better.

Good luck on your hunt!

Betty
www.thecyrusco.com

Just another thought on beads which seem magnetic.

remember that nickel is magnetic. It is often used as an underplate
before a final rhodium plate. So if you have sterling silver beads
that have been rhodium plated, (as many are), and if the nickel
underplate is heavy enough, it’s quite possible that the beads could
be at least somewhat attracted to a magnet, especially if it’s a
strong one… The attraction won’t be as strong as if the beads are
actually made of steel, of course, but it sure can be confusing if
you don’t remember that rhodium often goes over nickel, and that
nickel is magnetic…

Peter

    Now as far as the round beads that are being affected by your
magnet, did you have these for a long time? Could you have
purchased silver plate at the time not knowing there was a
difference between SS & SP? In the past two years, I've learned
many such lessons and now have a good bit of SP that I just don't
use because at the time I bought it, I didn't know any better. 

I bought these a couple months ago, and they were sold as sterling,
and were weighed and priced along with the other sterling I bought.
But, yes, the vendor has been nice about the whole thing and I plan
to return the plated pieces to him. I’m still wondering what
strength magnet I should bring with me the next time I go silver
shopping at a show? Does it matter?

Thanks,
Donna

actually no as a refrigerator magnet will work fine so if anyone at
a show is giving away magnetic business cards grab one lol…I have
heavy earth rare magnets that don’t leave my house and have studied
electromagnetic forces for years.

teri D

Just another thought on beads which seem magnetic. remember that
nickel is magnetic.  It is often used as an underplate before a
final rhodium plate.  So if you have sterling silver beads that
have been rhodium plated, (as many are), and if the nickel
underplate is heavy enough, it's quite possible that the beads
could be at least somewhat attracted to a magnet, especially if
it's a strong one... The attraction won't be as strong as if the
beads are actually made of steel, of course, but it sure can be
confusing if you don't remember that rhodium often goes over
nickel, and that nickel is magnetic...

Wow, talk about confusing! OK, next time I go to a show, how will I
know if what I’m buying is sterling? And, if .925 is mainly silver
and part copper, what percentage is then allocated to the nickel and
rhodium plating?

Thanks,
dsal

   Wow, talk about confusing!  OK, next time I go to a show, how
will I know if what I'm buying is sterling?  And, if .925 is mainly
silver and part copper, what percentage is then allocated to the
nickel and rhodium plating? 

Sterling silver is 92.5 percent silver, and 7.5 percent copper. The
electroplated finishes that may be applied over the sterling silver
are not generally considered as part of the main metal content. An
error, technically, but since the plated layers are usually extremely
thin, their actual effect on the overall “by weight” composition of
the object is usually very little, probably not enough to affect the
legal definition of sterling silver… But I suppose you are correct
in wondering if it makes the marking for sterling silver inaccurate,
and it might indeed do so on things made of very thin metal

Personally, I prefer to buy only sterling silver that is not plated
at all. I don’t especially like the color of rhodium plating on
sterling. It’s an improvement when done to white gold, which often
is not all that white, but on sterling, though it does prevent
tarnish, the purpose of the plating, it totally masks the wonderfully
white color of the silver. Useful on things like those styles of
chains or objects where one cannot clean off tarnish, and an
oxidized finish on recessed areas isn’t desired. But I’d much rather
avoid it when I can.

By the way, I’d note that while I mentioned that the nickel
underplate layer on a rhodium plated item might show some magnetism,
I doubt that it would ever be that strong an attraction, due to the
very thin nature of that layer. And nickel is not that strongly
magnetic in any case. Also, in checking a few items I’ve got, only
some showed detectable magnetic attraction, using a rather strong
magnet. If the nickel barrier layer is very thin, perhaps you don’t
notice magnetic effects at all, especially if you’re not using a
powerful magnet. Of the things I checked in my scrap pile and
assorted sterling chains, most of the stuff I think is rhodium plated
showed at least faint attraction to my magnet, with is one of those
rare earth very powerful ones. Two items were strongly attracted to
the magnet, and in checking, I noted that both those scrap chains
were not marked, made of links that were just crimped shut, not
soldered, and upon further testing, turned out to be actually made of
silver plated steel wire. There were things I found at garage sale
lots, or the like, so who knows where they were purchased or
whether their owners thought them to be silver. Nevertheless, the
rhodium colored surface was otherwise indistinguishable from the other
rhodium finished stuff, an indication that suggests some care may be
needed in buying things from uncertain sources.

Peter

Hi Donna, Sterling silver is .925 fine silver with the balance
composed of .999 copper. If you’re purchasing silver or rhodium
plated nickel it should be sold as such. They are two separate
things.

I hope this helps! Pam in brisk and sunny MA where the MacIntosh
apples are tasty and crisp!

G’day.

Sterling or fine silver cannot rust; only tarnish. If you really want
to check whether an item is magnetic, then bring one end near a
direction compass. Then try the other end. If the item is even only
slightly magnetic, one end will attract the needle and the other end
will repel it.

This test is as sensitive as the compass.

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ

    Hi Donna, Sterling silver is .925 fine silver with the balance
composed of .999 copper. 

While this is generally true for commercial silver the alloying
metal can almost anything: gold, brass, tin, etc etc.

Bill Bedford

Hello Orchidians,

Peter mentioned using a rather strong magnet to check for nickle
plating. I have mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating, a
cheap - perhaps free - source for a very strong magnet is an old
speaker. Get one from a car in the junk yard or yard sale. Tear it
apart and you’ll find the magnet. Avoid striking it or heating it
to preserve the magnetic property.

Judy in Kansas, where rain didn’t dampen the A&C show last weekend.

Peter, Pam and the other Pam, and anyone else who helped me out
with the rusting sterling thing: thank you! I appreciate the time
and energy you spent explaining all of this to me, and your detailed
responses! I’ve re-read them, and have included them in my jewelry
notes. The wealth of shared on this forum is
astounding! Thanks again!!

dsal–you’ll recognize me at shows because I’ll be the one carrying
the magnet…

Some of you have mentioned that when checking beads with a magnet to
make sure they really are silver, that if it has a rhodium plating,
it may appear magnetic due to the nickel coating underneath the
rhodium. If I bought something that appeared to be sterling due to
the weight of the object, as well as the tarnish on the outside,
would I be able to use the same process of checking with a magnet to
see if it is just silver plated? Will a magnet stick to something
that is mostly made of a ferrous metal, then plated with however
thick of a silver plate they normally use on items that are plated?
What types of metal are generally silver plated? Do they only use
ferrous material under silver plating? I am also curious as to
whether I would need a certain =91strength=92 magnet to check somethin=
g
like this. I did use a magnet to test it, and it didn=92t stick, but
may not be strong enough. I got what appears to be a solid silver
box (which is pretty large) at the Salvation Army for a killer
price. I just assumed it was all silver, because the edges haven=92t
been sanded down so that they are smooth, and it seems that you are
looking at the edge of a piece of silver sheet metal that had been
sawed. I am sure it was sanded down at least a little bit so there
aren=92t any sharp edges left, but it looks like it still has the saw
marks on it to a degree. It originally had a =91Made In India=92 stick=
er
on it, but I peeled it off, because it had been stuck over the top
of a stamped number, and I wanted to see if it said 925 underneath.
It also had the original? (non-Salvation Army) price tag on it,
saying $16.95 on it, which sounds too low to be solid sterling
unless it isn=92t worth near as much in India as it is here. The
=91original=92 price sticker was also appeared to be pretty old, becau=
se
it was yellowing somewhat and the glue had that dried out feeling
that old stickers get when they have been stuck to something for a
very long time. Underneath the made in India sticker, it has A40
stamped. Does anyone know what that means? I really appreciate any
help that can be offered.

Heather