The question of which is better – silver or gold – has been asked over the past three thousand years. These metals are contrasted as “solar” and “lunar”, “evening” and “daytime”, “solemn” and “everyday”. Therefore, the choice of an appropriate jewelry item depends on the occasion, your mood, and disposition.
It would be wrong to assume that silver jewelry is always cheaper than gold. The price of a ring or necklace isn’t solely comprised of the cost of metal. To a large extent, the price tag includes the cost of labor, design, advertising, and storage, as well as brand name markup. Also, you shouldn’t forget about gemstone inlays. 925 sterling silver rings are going to be more expensive than gold counterparts when they are crafted by an imminent jeweler, feature precious stones, and come with additional services (delivery, packaging, etc.).
Hands down, a diamond-clad silver ring costs more than a gold ring adorned with opal. But that’s not the only case when silver outstrips gold.
Why is gold more expensive than silver? Because the yellow metal is more difficult to mine and process, and it is simply rarer. However, jewelry isn’t made of 100% gold or silver. Instead, jewelers use alloys. Basic metals (copper, zinc, titanium, etc.) blended with precious ones improve the properties of the mixture. Alloys are stronger and more ductile than pure metals. The higher the concentration of precious metal in an alloy, the greater the cost of a product made of it. Silver alloys tend to accommodate more pure metal per gram than gold alloys, so high-grade silver easily surpasses low-grade gold in terms of price.
There are a few standards for silver alloys – 750, 800, 875, 916, 925, and 960. These numbers show silver content per 1000 units. The most popular standard of silver is 925 (i.e. it contains 92.5% of pure silver). This alloy is also known as sterling silver, and besides the noble metal, it also has copper in it.
Hallmarks found on gold jewelry items normally read 375 (9 carats), 585 (14 carats), 750 (18 carats), 916 (22 carats), 990 (24 carats), and 999 (fine gold). The latter is never used in jewelry because 100% (or, in this case, 99.9%) gold is too soft and fragile. You are more likely to come across 14-carat gold, which contains only 58.5% of actual gold. So, basically, every gold item out there is less pure than an average silver item.
Nevertheless, even a small content of gold costs more than a lot of silver. However, processing and finishing can even out their cost. If a silver ring features numerous subtle elements and details it may become more extravagant than a plain band of the yellow metal. Blackened silver isn’t cheap either – the complexity of the manufacturing technology and the duration of the process inflate the price.
Luxurious Jewels in a Silver Frame
Precious stones incorporated into a metal frame affect the cost as well. Of course, if we compare gold jewelry featuring turquoise and cornelian in a silver setting, the former would sport a higher price. But if it comes to rare gemstones – ruby, emerald, sapphire, large-sized diamond, etc. – then the cost of the frame won’t have a decisive role. A silver product adorned with a large faceted stone of pure color and showing no defects may easily accumulate a three-digit price. Silver jewelry with precious stones of fancy colors or rare shades of color naturally costs more than gold with regular gems. The number of carats (weight) is also a significant factor.
Have you ever asked yourself why branded accessories are more expensive than brandless ones even if they do not differ in appearance and quality? Or have you even given any thought to why custom-made jewelry is more expensive than factory-made items of the same size, the same metal, and with the same gems?
When an item is made by a well-established company, its price includes the cost of the brand itself, marketing, and advertisement (yeah, we pay more for a famous name). In the second case, we fork out for painstaking labor invested in the creation of a unique object. This doesn’t mean that machine-made jewelry is worse. With the right approach toward quality, mass-market products are as beautiful and flawless as handcrafted counterparts. But they are not unique and they entail less highly-paid handwork.
So is Silver Worth It?
While gold is widely regarded as a more luxurious option, silver has a few cards up its sleeve. If you enjoy massive jewelry but you’re not ready to break the bank, silver will fit the bill. Silver can even become a donor metal to carry a thin layer of gold (it doesn’t work vice versa). The white metal is a powerful weapon against bacteria. It releases ions that are lethal to germs. Finally, it can become a health indicator. If your silver jewelry oxidizes too fast, it may be a sign of harmful processes occurring in your body. By turning black, it warns you that you should visit a doctor. As you can see, there is more to silver than meets the eye.