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Nickel vs Palladium sterling silver


#1

A nearby jewelry store sends people to me all the time for silver
repairs. Business is slow enough around here that I suppose I
shouldn’t do anything to irritate them. Unfortunately, they have this
notion that I ‘only’ work in silver.

Anyway, one of the sales clerks called me to ask if I knew of a
source for palladium sterling silver, since they had a customer in
there who didn’t want nickel sterling silver. I told her that copper,
not nickel was alloyed with silver for sterling.

No, she told me, it was nickel; she had read it somewhere (in a tone
that said I didn’t know what I was talking about).

Hmm, I said, I’d seen a lot of phase diagrams for sterling silver in
my metallurgy/materials class when I was getting my engineering
degree, and that I’d never seen a phase diagram for nickel and
silver to produce sterling. Perhaps she was thinking of white gold,
or coin silver? And that there is in fact palladium white gold for
people who don’t want nickel white gold.

We ended the conversation with my reputation somewhat (shall I say
it?) tarnished in her eyes, since I clearly didn’t know squat about
metals. (I’m going to guess she had heard the term “nickel silver"
before and assumed that referred to sterling silver. And I know that
"German silver” = nickel = “nickel silver” != sterling silver)

Am I wrong about sterling? I know that 92.5% must be pure silver,
and that the rest can be ‘other’, but working properties can change
dramatically with metals other than copper (the historical mix).
BTW, I’m talking strictly about American-made sterling, not stuff
from Mexico, et al.

Set me straight if I need it, and please include a reference. Oh,
and is “palladium silver” sterling?

thanks,
Kelley Dragon


#2

Nickel and silver are basically insoluble in each other silver can
hold about 0.7% Nickel at room temperature and Nickel can hold about
1.8% Silver. So in a mostly silver alloy like sterling you cant put
much nickel by itself in it. The copper and nickel do form a
continuous solid solution so you might be able to stuff a bit more
nickel into sterling if you started with a copper nickel alloy
rather than straight nickel but it would be there as a two phase
solution of silver-copper and copper-nickel if at all. I think it
would segregate by gravity during melting and probably be skimmed off
as dross with the flux. It is not commercially produced to my
knowledge but some folks who “roll their own” alloys have sworn that
they put nickel in their sterling to get a harder alloy but again
this probably will not stay in the alloy. I can send you the phase
diagram for Ag-Ni if you want but it probably will not convince your
skeptic.

Yes there is palladium sterling along with platinum sterling. ABI
precious metals offers it. Both contain a few percent either
palladium or platinum along with copper and other metals to make up
the 7.25% of non silver metals in the sterling alloy.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3

Wow, Kelley, my sympathies on having to deal with someone so
resistant to taking in new “Nickel sterling”… I’m
clawing at my skin just at the thought! (Not a fun allergy.)

Yes, there is such a thing as palladium silver, and it is sterling.
I’ve worked with platinum sterling, which I liked a lot. I bought it
from ABI a few years ago; they also produce palladium sterling. It
comes in different percentages of platinum, but all alloys are
sterling. (I used the 3.5%.) The only differences I found were that
it work hardened a little sooner, and finishing it took slightly
more elbow grease to achieve a high polish.

I’ve heard rumors that other companies were going to start carrying
these alloys. Anyone know who else does? (ABI was very nice to deal
with, but at the time they weren’t really set up to sell non huge
quantities to studio jewelers and metalsmiths. Not sure if that’s
changed.)

Victoria
Victoria Lansford
http://www.victorialansford.com


#4

There is white gold with palladium alloy and white gold with nickel
alloy. I just created wedding rings for a couple using the palladium
white gold and it was a DREAM to work with :wink:

I don’t believe that sterling silver ever has nickel in it. Copper,
yes. Nickel, no. I think she was confused and thinking of white gold
with nickel alloy…

Give her a call back and educate her :wink:
Laney


#5

So the traditional sterling alloy has been copper since forever, and
metalsmiths have been fighting fire scale and tarnish for just as
long. So why not replace that copper with something else that
doesn’t fire scale or tarnish?

United Metals has come out with a new sterling which is alloyed with
palladium, they call it “Sterlium” (sterling/palladium) Since it is
92.5 % fine silver, by definition, it is sterling. I’ve never heard
of “nickle sterling”, but United Metals out of NY will sell you the
palladium sterling. I ordered an ounce of it, and will fabricate
something with it in the next few days. I think I only paid $18 an
oz. for it, so it is not that much more expensive than normal
sterling. I’m looking forward to zero fire scale issues. We are also
using another great alloy for sterling, called “S57 NA”, which
contains germanium, similar to Argentium. So far it alloys and pours
well, rolls out easily, and doesn’t have the sensitivity to heat as
Argentium does.

I’m done with copper as an alloy for sterling.

Palladium is by far the best white gold alloy you can use. Nickle
alloyed white golds tend to be brutally hard and difficult to
fabricate with, although David Fell makes a good one I believe Andy
Cooperman swears by. If you’ve had difficulties with white gold (the
nickel alloyed kind) try the palladium white gold. It is so white,
you won’t need to rhodium plate it, and it is easy to roll out. A
fine product!

Jay Whaley
www.whaleyworkshops.com


#6

Hi Kelly,

The salesbeing is a bonehead. Someone, somewhere along the line, did
indeed hear the sounds “nickel silver”, and jumped to the conclusion
that it was some form of sterling. It’s not. (But neither is it pure
nickel. It’s actually a white brass. Copper/Zinc brass with a very
high nickel content to make it white. AKA german silver. The big
thing to remember is “surprise! No silver…”)

“Sterling Silver” is the name of a standard, defined as any silver
alloy containing 92.5% silver. Remainder unspecified. Which is why
Argentium can be a called sterling: it’s 92.5% silver, with the
remainder mostly germanium. Traditional sterling is 92.5% Ag,
remainder mostly copper. There is a palladium sterling that
someone’s making. Again, 92.5% Ag, with some of the remainder Pd.
(exact details unknown.) (I think PM West is making it??) So far as
I know, nobody’s making any sort of a “Nickel Sterling”, or any other
commercial alloy of silver & nickel for jewelers. Can’t imagine why
you’d want to.

The nickel would cause it to be one nasty piece of metal to work
with.

Fwiw,
Brian.


#7
"German silver" = nickel = "nickel silver" != sterling silver 

German silver contains no silver whatsoever


#8
I told her that copper, not nickel was alloyed with silver for
sterling. No, she told me, it was nickel; she had read it somewhere
(in a tone that said I didn't know what I was talking about). 

I’m sure you will hear from much more authoritative sources than me,
and I have no references, but obviously you know more about metals
than this, um, lady. Just don’t expect her to back down.

I had a student who proudly brought in some freshly bought “white
turquoise”. I explained to her that what she had was howlite, and
that you could no more have white turquoise than you could have blue
ruby, because turquoise, by definition, contains copper (among other
things) and must be blue or green. She insisted, so did I (politely,
I assure you). She packed up her howlite, left my class and never
came back.

Perhaps, to avoid a similar outcome, you could offer to “test” any
sterling in question to rule out nickel. Or offer Argentium-- maybe
germanium would be as satisfactory to the customer as palladium,
since I, for one, have never heard of sterling with palladium. Last
of all, tell her this customer really should have platinum sterling,
which does exist. I hear it’s dreamy to work with, though I’m not
likely ever to find out!

Noel


#9

the customer was wrong…plain and simple…palladium white gold or
nikel white gold are what the person she got her info was talking
about… And by the way, a nicely designed and clearly lettered
sign or news paper ad that says you do Gold Jewelry Repairs would put
the “You -only - work- in- silver” rumors to rest.


#10
I explained to her that what she had was howlite, and that you
could no more have white turquoise than you could have blue ruby,
because turquoise, by definition, contains copper (among other
things) and must be blue or green." 

We just call the blue rubies, “sapphires.” :stuck_out_tongue:

They’re the same mineral, corundum/aluminum oxide.

Willis


#11

Check with your supplier to see, if they can provide you with a
chart of the metals that you use and their break down metals used.
Having the from your sources should stop the question or
debate with the person at the store because then they know what you
are working with specifically.

Here is a chart I found online:

http://www.brynmorgen.com/toolbox/AlloyChart.pdf

and…
http://www.hooverandstrong.com/category/Casting+Grain+Specifications/

It really sounds like you were talking to a sales person that was
misinformed and they should correct their because
otherwise it will confuse both of your customers.

Melissa Stenstrom


#12

There are phase diagrams for palladium silver. Google for “palladium
silver” +“phase diagram”.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Alliance, OH


#13
United Metals has come out with a new sterling which is alloyed
with palladium, they call it "Sterlium" (sterling/palladium) Since
it is 92.5 % fine silver, by definition, it is sterling. 

Thanks for posting about this Jay! I’ve been wanting to try the
Platinum Sterling, but this is more in my price range.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#14
We just call the blue rubies, "sapphires." :P 

Exactly my point. We do NOT call them “rubies”. Nor do we call
citrine “yellow amethyst” or heliodore “yellow emerald”. Well, we
might, but only if we are trying to mislead, or are too incompetent
to be calling anything anything!


#15
United Metals has come out with a new sterling which is alloyed
with palladium, they call it "Sterlium" (sterling/palladium) Since
it is 92.5 % fine silver, by definition, it is sterling. 

I called United yesterday and asked about it. They have two grades.
One is 7% PD the other 0.5% Palladium. The tech guy I talked to said
both are very similar. Casts just a wee bit hotter than other silver
aloys with no special investments needed. Supposed to look more like
white gold and more tarnish resistant than other de-ox alloys. Would
like to give it a try.

Stephen Walker


#16

Does it only come in casting grain? I would love to find something
like that for fabrication.

Lona