February 12, 2021 3 min read

Stainless Steel Jewelry vs. Sterling Silver

When choosing jewelry, it is important to understand what you're buying.

While stainless steel and sterling silver jewelry can look similar, they are vastly different metals that each have their strengths and weaknesses. Do you know which you prefer and why?

If not, don't fret! This guide will dive into what stainless steel and sterling silver are, their pros and cons, and which one is better.

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is an iron and chromium alloy that is often used in jewelry. While some grades have additional metals, which can cause irritation, the stainless steel we use in our jewelry is hypoallergenic.

Pros of Stainless Steel

You may be surprised to learn than many of our most popular necklaces are made with stainless steel chain, including the Danielle, Robbie, Eliza (pictured at top) and Ebba.  

We love stainless steel for a number of reasons, including its:

  • Durability- Under normal circumstances, stainless steel will not tarnish or rust.
  • Versatility- Stainless steel chain comes in a variety of sizes and grades, allowing us creative freedom.
  • Low maintenance- Aside from wiping down with a dry cloth now and then, stainless steel jewelry requires little upkeep and does not need to be polished.
  • Ideal for every day- If you're looking for jewelry that you can wear frequently without maintenance, stainless steel is a great option.

Cons of Stainless Steel

While stainless steel is widely used in the jewelry industry, there are a few downsides to using it. No metal is perfect!

The negatives include:

  • Stereotype- People often turn their nose up at stainless steel, thinking that it is exclusively used for surgical equipment. In reality, stainless steel is a bright and beautiful metal to use in jewelry!
  • Varying quality- While we use hypoallergenic stainless steel at Carolily, some cheaper varieties of chain contain high percentages of nickel, which can cause allergic reactions.
  • Hard to repair- If damaged, stainless steel jewelry is very difficult to repair and, more often than not, will simply need to be replaced. 

What Is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver, like its friends gold and platinum, is a precious metal. 

Often stamped with a 925 to signify its composition, sterling silver is composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper alloy. In comparison to pure silver, which is too soft to be used in jewelry, sterling silver is loved for its beauty and versatility. 

Pros of Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is another one of our favourite metals to work with and for good reason.

The positive qualities of sterling silver include:

  • Bright & lustrous- The brightness of sterling silver cannot be denied. It brings a beautiful elegance to jewelry. 
  • Easy to clean- While sterling silver can tarnish, maintaining its shine is easy with quick, frequent cleanings with a jewelry cloth.
  • Can be repaired- Due to its malleability, sterling silver jewelry can be repaired if it is damaged. 
  • Precious metal- While less expensive than gold or platinum, sterling silver is still a precious metal!
  • Versatility- When it comes to sterling silver chain and accents, the options are endless.
  • Prestige- Most of us have heard of sterling silver and its reputation proceeds the precious metal. 

Cons of Sterling Silver

While sterling silver is widely loved, there are a few downsides including: 

  • Tarnishing- The copper in sterling silver is what reacts to moisture and sulfur in the air, causing jewelry to tarnish. This is easily avoided by following our tips for jewelry care, including regular cleanings with a jewelry cloth.
  • More prone to damage- Some sterling silver is more vulnerable to scratches and damage. It is important to properly store your jewelry to avoid excessive wear. 
  • More expensive- Because of its rarity and classification as a precious metal, sterling silver is more expensive than stainless steel and other metals.

Is Sterling Silver or Stainless Steel Better?

Well, that depends. Neither stainless steel or sterling silver is inherently better. It all comes down to your personal preferences, the amount of maintenance you're willing to invest, your budget, and the style of jewelry you like. There is no wrong answer!

Where to Purchase Stainless Steel and Sterling Silver Jewelry?

Luckily for you, you are already in the right place! We use stainless steel and sterling silver in many of our statement necklaces, bracelets and earrings. In some case, we use both in one piece, like the Carol, Alexandra, Kim (pictured below) and Lily Necklaces.

If you are looking to have a custom piece of statement jewelry created, please email us at info@carolily.com to book a consultation. 

Silver and Swarovski crystal pearl statement necklace


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