Why is silver so popular in jewellery making?
Silver is one of the most widely used metals in the jewellery industry. Although the price of silver has skyrocketed over the past few years, it remains relatively inexpensive compared to gold, platinum or palladium. It’s easy to work with and flattering to wear, but because pure silver is so soft, it’s usually alloyed with other metals such as copper to make it stronger and less malleable.
Although its natural lustre makes it an obvious choice for jewellery, silver is a very versatile material that is used in many different applications. It is a great conductor of electricity and so most electrical items from your smartphone to your car will contain a small amount of silver.
What is Sterling silver?
Although other types of silver such as Argentium are becoming more popular these days, most jewellery is still made from Sterling silver. You will sometimes see Sterling silver referred to as ‘925’ which just means that it is 92.5% pure silver and the remaining 7.5% is copper.
Is silver environmentally friendly?
All materials that are extracted from the ground come with a cost to the environment and silver is no different. With large deposits found in areas of North and South America, the environmental impact from silver mining includes erosion to the landscape in and around the mine itself and the contamination of nearby groundwater.
In addition to this, there is the human cost to the miners who extract the silver and work in very dangerous conditions. There’s an interesting article here about workers at the Cero Rico mine in Potosi, Bolivia which gives an insight into the lives of mine workers.
How is Ecosilver different to other silver?
The good news is that there is an alternative to newly mined silver. Ecosilver is a 100% recycled alternative to Sterling silver, processed in the UK by Cooksongold which is sourced from scrap jewellery, medical equipment, electronics and giftware.
It has exactly the same properties and can be worked and worn in the same way as Sterling silver. If you need some tips on how to look after your silver jewellery to keep it looking good for years to come then you might find my blog post How do I clean my gold & silver jewellery? useful. Sure, it does cost a little more than standard silver, but by choosing Ecosilver over newly mined silver you are safe in the knowledge that you are not contributing to the environmental damage done by the mining process.
Elin Horgan is a designer & maker of beautifully simple handmade jewellery, crafted from sustainable materials in her Bristol studio.