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Sterling Silver and Nickel


#1

Continue from “Lets Get Yurman”

richard,

Stering silver does not contain nickle. Tell your friends family
and anyone else you know. 

We all have different experiences. I had a caster for years who
mixed his own “sterling” grain. He used Nickle. I didn’t know it
until some pieces came back because of allergies and I asked him
what his alloys were. He said he used nickle because he liked the
way it held the finish. He said that’s the way he was taught. This is
a small, independent guy in downtown LA. Been casting for 30 some-odd
years. Whether or not he was right or wrong, his "sterling silver"
which he stamped BTW, contained nickle. Now I always ask what the
alloys are. We learn from our mistakes.

I’m sorry you feel that people are so stupid that they deserve to be
berated or humiliated. I feel that this is a forum for learning and
sharing and experiences. If you can’t post a stupid
question or make a mistake on this forum where can you? If you (or
anyone else) knows better why don’t you educate instead of berate?

We are are responsible for our own actions. I feel bad if someone
follows someone’s advice from the forum and looses $$$, I don’t want
anyone to lose $$$. But have you been on the internet lately? There’s
tons of misout there, too. You have to use your head
enough to sift through the fact, the fiction and the guess work. You
can also get misfrom books, classes and your best friend.

You learn from mistakes, and on this forum you can share those
mistakes and the successes as well. I have never taken advice from
this forum as the gospel on the “right” way to do something. You (I
mean the general you) have to realize that some of the information
can be wrong. If you don’t realize that, then I think you’re the
ignorant one.

IMHO,
now I will duck.
Amery (partially responsible for the dumbing down of this forum)

Amery Carriere Designs
www.amerycarriere.com


#2

Richard,

The only qualifier for silver to be Sterling is if the alloy
contains at least 92.5% Silver. The content of the rest is
unimportant. It is entirely possible by this definition for sterling
silver to contain nickle. I’m not saying that it does, just that it
is possible. For example, the alloy ‘Oxantis’ contains no copper but
a mixture of zinc, tin, indium and iridium. It is legal to stamp this
alloy as sterling silver.

The other possibility is that someone is getting confused regarding
nickle silver. Nickle silver has no silver but does contain nickle…

Eileen


#3

The main reason you will not find silver/nickel sterling alloys is
that they do not mix. They are virtually insoluble in each other
otherwise it would be an easy way to make a harder sterling alloy.
But if they did and there was no more than 7.5 % nickel by law you
could certainly call it sterling.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#4

Beth,

While, yes, it is possible that some misguided jeweler might try to
make a sterling mix of 925 fine silver and 75 nickel every reference
book I have says sterling is silver and copper. While there might be
some experimental stuff somewhere out there, the sterling that
99.99999999999999% of the people buy and sell has no nickel in it. I
would have added a few more 9’s at the end there but I’m not clear
anyone would want to read a number that long. { - ;

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#5
We all have different experiences. I had a caster for years who
mixed his own "sterling" grain. He used Nickle. I didn't know it
until some pieces came back because of allergies and I asked him
what his alloys were. He said he used nickle because he liked the
way it held the finish. He said that's the way he was taught. 

Those castings must have been an interesting item. You cannot get
more than a fraction of 1 percent nickel dissolved in silver when it
is molten. If he added some copper he would have been able to
possibly get a some more in the mix but not much. Basically any
significant amount of nickel added to the sterling would not melt
into the sterling and would remain as a separate mass in the
casting. Also was he adding pure nickel or nickel silver (copper zinc
nickel alloy) ? If it was nickel silver then he probably would have
not noticed the fact that the nickel was not dissolved in the silver.
That would be again slightly more soluable but the nickel would
still segregate out on cooling into areas of pure nickel or nickel
copper alloy so no wonder your customers had reactions. The nickel
content would most likely vary depending o where it was on the tree
as the silver would settle lower by gravity in the crucible and the
more nickel rich area would be on the top

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#6
but why couldn't sterling silver contain nickel? If sterling is
defined as .925 parts pure silver and.75 parts something else, why
couldn't the "something else" be nickel instead of copper? Granted,
it would have different qualities and it wouldn't be what we
commonly think of as sterling silver, but it would still meet the
specs, right?

Right. But:

I have had customers that said they were allergic to sterling
"because it contains nickle". Investigating this, sometimes what
happens is that someone buys sliver plated earrings and has a reaction
and the person is told, “you are allergic to the nickle in the
sterling”. I have helped a lot of customers that thought they were
allergic find out what the problem was and be able to wear sterling
again. Sometimes it is as simple as hygene.

If they use alchohol to clean before putting the earrings on, there
is no problem. I do not see the value of misdiagnosing the cause of
allergic reaction. This is where and why the misis
generally distributed. So the question is, if there is no sterling
that any of you can buy from any vendor that contains nickle, isn’t it
misrepresentation to “educate” your customer that sterling contains
nickle?

And the issue is, if sterling is represented as containing nickle,
and it does not, I believe that the disclosure criteria applies here
as well. I have been fabricating and casting sterling for 37 years. I
have never run across sterling that had nickle in it. Now, how do I
know? I believe that if they could manufacture sterling with nickle,
we would all be using it, because there would be no firescale. Don’t
ya think? Assumption on my part, sterling alloyed with nickle is
probably a miserable metal to work with. It just simply is not the
truth.

Richard Hart


#7
The only qualifier for silver to be Sterling is if the alloy
contains at least 92.5% Silver. The content of the rest is
unimportant. It is entirely possible by this definition for
sterling silver to contain nickle. I'm not saying that it does,
just that it is possible.

That it is possible is not a reason for people to say it does, like
it is a fact. If I said that 14 kt yellow gold has nickle in it, I
would be corrected. It is possible that it could. But it does not.
To me this is about how much misthere is generally about
gems and metals and what an uphill battle it is to have to correct
as much misas often as I do as a retailer. It gets really
boring and frustrating to hear the garbage that the public is fed by
people who do not know what they are talking about representing this
industry.

Richard Hart


#8
someone buys sliver plated earrings and has a reaction and the
person is told, "you are allergic to the nickle in the sterling 

A thought here…often times silverplated goods have an underplate
of nickel. Could be, on posts with clutches particularly, the silver
wears off exposing the nickel. So the misperception might be one of
lost context. Its not the nickel IN the sterling (a misconception in
itself) its the nickel UNDER the fine silver coating.


#9
Those castings must have been an interesting item. You cannot get
more than a fraction of 1 percent nickel dissolved in silver when
it is molten. 

I suspected someone who had technical knowledge would post on why
nickle is not used in sterling silver. So my original point was a
rant about the spreading of mis

how it happens, and how hard it is to educate the public when there
are people continuing to perpetuate the spread of that
has
no basis in reality. So my question now is, what metal was Amery
receiving from her 30 years of experience caster who could not do
what he said he was doing? Was it sterling? I have mixed contaminents
accidently when casting. There is usually a hard to ignore change in
the characteristic of the metal. And the resulting casting had
something wrong that made the castings unusable. So I wonder, what
was this guy doing?

Richard Hart


#10

Jim,

Thanks for your info on the nickel content of sterling. I still use
this caster, but only for gold. After that problem with the silver I
got a little gun shy with him. Also, his silver was difficult to
oxidize. Not impossible, but difficult. The silver-black didn’t turn
it as dark black as it did other silver castings. It kinda stayed a
gray color. His silver was also very very white and didn’t tarnish
as fast as other castings.

I think I’ll ask him again what alloys he uses in his silver and I’ll
let you know. Now I’m really curious. English isn’t his first
language and sometimes things get lost in the translation. Copper is
one of the alloys as well.

Amery
Amery Carriere Designs
www.amerycarriere.com


#11
While there might be some experimental stuff somewhere out
there, the sterling that 99.99999999999999% of the people buy and
sell has no nickel in it. 

You’re right of course, Daniel (and Richard, who made a similar
point). I was merely talking about principle: The 75 parts of
sterling that are not silver could be anything – in principle. In
practice, however, those 75 parts are almost always copper. No
argument there :-). And it seems from what Jim wrote that nickel is
an unlikely (if not impossible) component - in practice.

Beth


#12

My guess is that your caster didn’t mix “sterling grain with nickle"
but instead used base metal with silver plating. Many Inexpensive
"SILVER” items aren’t silver at all!!!


#13

Amery,

It sounds like your caster was using either a Deox or Argentium
Silver and not one with a high Nickel alloy content.

Greg DeMark
www.demarkjewelry.com


#14
My guess is that your caster didn't mix "sterling grain with
nickle" but instead used base metal with silver plating. Many
Inexpensive "SILVER" items aren't silver at all!!! 

Yikes! I am positive that I haven’t been selling plated items for
the past few years!

I have watched him take the castings out of the tumbler and polish
them on a wheel and sometimes I get the raw castings and tumble
finish or polish them myself.

If I had been selling plated base metal I don’t think I’d still be in
business. Something like that could really tarnish (pun intended) a
girl’s reputation.

If any of my accounts are out there reading this, I speak with
absolute certainty that my designs are not plated!

Amery


#15

Greg,

Was the deox and Argentium around 4-5 years ago? I thought it was
something new.

Amery
www.amerycarriere.com


#16
The main reason you will not find silver/nickel sterling
alloys is that they do not mix. They are virtually insoluble in
each other otherwise it would be an easy way to make a harder
sterling alloy. But if they did and there was no more than 7.5 %
nickel by law you could certainly call it sterling. 

My curiosity has been engaged by Mr Binnion’s comment on the
solubility of nickel in a sterling alloy. To provide more “spring” in
a clasp or catch, it is not uncommon to alloy the sterling by using
coin metal. New Zealand “silver” coins were an alloy of 75% copper/
25% nickel. The resulting sterling alloy therefore runs out as
925/1000 fine silver, 56.25/1000 copper and 18.75/1000 nickel. Not
being a metallurgist I am now curious to know why the melt appears
to absorb the nickel when it is presented in an already partially
alloyed form via the “silver” coin as distinct from the apparent
difficulties when adding pure nickel.


#17

Amery,

Deox Sterling has been around for at least that long and based on
your problem with trying to darken your pieces with the antiquing
solution I would think this is a possibility.

I am not sure if Argentium has been on the market that long.

Greg DeMark
www.demarkjewelry.com


#18
My curiosity has been engaged by Mr Binnion's comment on the
solubility of nickel in a sterling alloy. To provide more "spring"
in a clasp or catch, it is not uncommon to alloy the sterling by
using coin metal. New Zealand "silver" coins were an alloy of 75%
copper/ 25% nickel. The resulting sterling alloy therefore runs out
as 925/1000 fine silver, 56.25/1000 copper and 18.75/1000 nickel.
Not being a metallurgist I am now curious to know why the melt
appears to absorb the nickel when it is presented in an already
partially alloyed form via the "silver" coin as distinct from the
apparent difficulties when adding pure nickel. 

The 1.8% nickel alloy you are talking about is possible because of
the copper content but even so the resulting metal will be composed
mostly of silver/copper phases and some copper/nickel phase but the
silver and nickel will not form a solution or alloy with each other
of more than a fraction of a percent. You could look at it with a
microscope and if etched properly see separate distinct areas of
these phases. The question is how well the copper nickel is
distributed in the majority silver/copper material. If the nickel
content is too high then it will fall out of solution and end up as
separate nickel rich areas. This material will be not very ductile
and may tend to crack when even moderately worked due to its less
than homogenous nature. It can also lead to hard spots in the alloy
that cause defects in the polishing. It will be harder which is why
it makes a good spring. It is not so much that you can’t add nickel
in this way to a silver casting but it will be like mixing sand into
water rather than sugar into water in that the nickel will not
dissolve in the silver.

It is not too unusual to add insoluble material to some alloys to
make them harder or make the grains smaller ( like iridium in some
gold alloys) but you have to be careful how much as it can lead to
cracking problems if there is too much in the mix. Generally it is
in the less than one percent range.

So for your spring alloy it can be a useful addition but as a
standard casting or wrought alloy it will have too many undesirable
features to be used.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550