The key difference between silver and silverplate is that silver items are made of one solid whereas silver plate items are made of another metal, and a silver coating is applied on the surface of that metal.
Most people find it difficult to understand the difference between Silver and silverplate due to their same appearance. Therefore, people identify most silver jewellery and silver plate jewellery erroneously. Silver plate is a coating of silver, which gives a decorative appearance on another metal. We name silver jewellery or items if they contain silver as it is or silver alloyed with another metal.
What is Silver?
Silver is a ductile and malleable metal. As a pure metal, silver is very soft. Therefore, we can alloy it with copper, nickel and tungsten to make it harder and to increase its durability. Alloying also improves the workability. We can alloy this metal with different percentages of other metals depending on the requirement of the application. The most commonly found silver alloy contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper by weight.
With a higher silver percentage, the resistant to corrosion of the alloy is higher. We cannot use pure silver to make items due to its softness. Furthermore, this metal has the highest reflectivity and whitest colour and is a noble metal. Also, it has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity, which makes it useful in circuit boards.
Silver falls under the category of precious metals, and it is the most common one because it is the least expensive precious metal. However, it is still expensive, which makes it necessary to have silver plated items to imitate the look of silver. But, silver items are more durable than silver plated items.
What is Silverplate?
Silver plate means that a coating of silver is applied on another cheaper and harder metal. Coins, jewellery, tableware, ornaments, bells, etc. are some examples of silver plated items. Plating was started in the 19th century. We can carry out silver plating via fusing silver on to a surface of another metal by immersion plating, electroless deposition or electrodeposition.
Usually, we use a solution of [ KAg(CN)2 ] for silver plating. Peeling, flaking away and poor adherence are some of the problems of plating. However, we can overcome these problems using a proper solution with a correct concentration of silver. Just after plating, the items have a matt finish; thus, we need to turn it into a lustrous surface by mechanical polishing. The decorative appearance of plated items does not last long as it wears off quickly, and plated metals tend to undergo corrosion. Sometimes, the oxidized parts in plated silver are visible by their colour.
Most of the times, some surface marks in silver items indicate that they are not plated. Even though both silver and silver plate have the same appearance, the appearance of silver plated items do not last long due to the coating wearing off and oxidation of the metal beneath the coating. There are tests available to identify silver and silver plate.
What is the Difference Between Silver and Silverplate?
Silver is a ductile and malleable metal. Silverplate means that a coating of silver is applied to another cheaper and harder metal. The key difference between silver and silverplate is that silver items are made of one solid whereas silver plate items are made of another metal, and a silver coating is applied on the surface of that metal. Another important difference between silver and silverplate is that the durability of silver is more than that of silver plate. Moreover, silver is expensive than silver plate.
Summary – Silver vs Silverplate
The terms silver and silverplate are related to each other. However, there are considerable differences between them. The key difference between silver and silverplate is that silver items are made of one solid whereas silver plate items are made of another metal, and a silver coating is applied on the surface of that metal.
1. “The Many Uses of Silver.” Geology. Available here