The key difference between stainless steel and sterling silver is that stainless steel is less bright and lustrous than sterling silver, which has a very shiny appearance.
An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals with some other chemical elements. Stainless steel and sterling silver are two important alloys with various important applications. These two alloys have different appearances, so it’s not difficult to distinguish between these two alloys.
What is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is a type of alloy steel consisting of 10-30% of chromium. It has a low carbon content, and its chromium tends to impart remarkable resistance to corrosion and heat. Other chemical elements such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum, niobium, copper, nitrogen, etc., can also be added to it. These additions increase the corrosion resistance to specific environments, enhance oxidation resistance, and impart special characteristics.
There are about 100 different grades of stainless steel. We can classify the majority into five major groups known as austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation-hardening.
Typically, stainless steel is aesthetically appealing, extremely hygienic, easy to maintain, highly durable, and offers a wide variety of aspects. Therefore, we can find stainless steel in everyday objects, where it plays a prominent role in an array of industries such as energy, transportation, building, research, medicine, etc.
Austenitic stainless steel has about 21% chromium and about 0.10% carbon, along with some other chemical elements. The applications of this material include boiler market, electronic components, railway equipment, tubes, chemical tanks, etc.
The other most common form of stainless steel is ferritic stainless steel. It has about 30% chromium and 0.06% carbon. It is important in applications such as car exhaust systems, cooking utensils, boilers, domestic appliances, etc.
What is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is a type of alloy of silver consisting of about 92% of its weight in silver and the rest in other metals. Typically, fine silver has about 99% purity. Fine silver is relatively soft, so it is usually alloyed with other metals such as copper to increase its hardness and strength. Moreover, this alloy is prone to tarnishing, and we can use metals other than copper to reduce this tarnishing effect. In addition, we can add other chemical elements to cast porosity and firescale. The chemical elements that we can use in this context include germanium, zinc, platinum, silicon, and boron.
There are many different uses of sterling silver, including the manufacture of forks like dinner forks, salad forks, pastry forks, spoons like teaspoons, coffee spoons, iced tea spoons, and knives like dinner knives, butter spreaders, cheese knives, etc.
In chemical terms, silver is not a much reactive metal. This means it does not react with oxygen or water at ordinary temperatures; therefore, it does not form silver oxide easily. However, the common components in atmospheric pollution can attack this metal easily. For example, upon exposure to airborne sulfur compounds, silver forms silver sulfide, which appears as a black tarnish. Therefore, the decrease in the purity of silver can cause a higher rate of corrosion or tarnishing. Besides, other metals in the alloy like copper can react with oxygen in the air.
What is the Difference Between Stainless Steel and Sterling Silver?
The key difference between stainless steel and sterling silver is that stainless steel is less bright and lustrous, while sterling silver has a very shiny appearance. Moreover, the weight of stainless steel is higher than that of sterling silver.
Summary – Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver
Stainless steel is a type of alloy steel consisting of 10-30% of chromium, while sterling silver is a type of alloy of silver consisting of about 92% of its weight with silver and the rest with other metals. The key difference between stainless steel and sterling silver is that stainless steel is less bright and lustrous than sterling silver, which has a very shiny appearance.
1. Walsh, Simone. “What Is Sterling Silver Jewellery? How Is It Different to Silver?” Simone Walsh Jewellery, Simone Walsh Jewellery, 5 Dec. 2021.