Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver in Wedding Rings

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver in Wedding Rings
Making an informed decision about which white metal is best for you can be challenging. If you can't visit us in person, we're happy to assist over the phone. Just give us a call at 888-733-5238.
At a Glance
  • Both silver and stainless steel are budget friendly alternatives to gold or platinum. Both white metals hold up over years, though stainless steel rings are much more durable than silver and can only be created through casting.
In considering stainless steel vs. sterling silver in wedding rings, look at such factors as color, hardness, price and the processes in which the ring is made.
As a metal, stainless steel is not easy to work with or as forgiving as silver. Stainless steel rings can only be cast. Silver rings can be formed and entirely handmade from sheet and wire. We cannot set stones in our stainless steel rings due to the nature of the material. Any gemstone of your choice can be set in a sterling silver rings. Pricing is comparable. Silver is slightly whiter and considerably softer than stainless steel.

In terms of feeling tone, silver has an ancient association with the moon and its lunar influence. It has a cool, receptive quality that is tied to creativity and intelligence. It is easy and malleable for jewelers to work with. Jewelers have been using silver to make their pieces for thousands of years. Stainless steel has a much more modern and contemporary feeling. Stainless steel is extremely strong, not a precious metal, and does not have the same malleability. In the fabrication process, steel can only be cast while silver can be hand made from sheets.

Silver wedding rings and stainless steel wedding rings have become more popular over the last few years. Apart from the aesthetic appeal of these white metal options for wedding rings, both stainless steel and sterling silver wedding rings is that they are budget friendly. Though the materials used to make these rings are relatively not expensive, the fabrication cost, design and time put into making jewelry with stainless steel and silver is the same as if it were made with expensive precious metals.

Now, let's review the qualities of stainless steel and silver individually.

Silver has an ancient association with the moon and its lunar influence. Stainless steel has a much more modern and contemporary feeling.

Silver Wedding Rings
Silver in its pure or "fine" state is very soft, just 2.5 on the MOH scale, that jewelers can easily shape it by hand. You may remember learning about the MOH scale at some point in a science class. At the bottom of the scale is talc, at one; and at the top, at 10, is diamond, the hardest of all natural materials. Precious metals in their pure and alloyed state fall in between.

To make silver more suitable for wear, it is alloyed into "sterling silver" which is .925% silver. Commonly, copper is used as an alloy. Adding copper to fine silver brings the hardness on the MOH scale up to a 3. Adding copper also makes sterling silver more susceptible to oxidation or tarnishing. With our sterling silver rings, we incorporate the antique darkened look intentionally to highlight our designs.

Wear Over Time
One matter with silver is how well the rings hold up. We have much experience with this issue. We sell a lot of plain silver and mixed metal gold over silver wedding rings that have a silver base and solid gold overlay. We generally make our silver rings with thicker metal than our gold rings and they last very well. Sterling silver has about the same hardness as 18K gold.

Mounting Gemstones
When a silver ring is used as an engagement ring and we are mounting a gemstone, we recommend using a gold split or prong mount. 14K white or yellow gold has a hardness of 3.5 to 4 on the MOH scale, depending upon the alloys used and their manufacturing process. The harder metals provide a more secure setting for your gemstone. When we bezel set gems, silver bezels work just fine.

Environmental Matters
All our sterling silver rings are made with 100% recycled silver. Previously used silver has been melted down, refined to its purest state, and alloyed again. From a purity viewpoint, there is no difference between silver from a recycled source and silver directly from the mine. At this time, this is the best option for Fairtrade silver is not widely available.
Stainless Steel Wedding Rings
If you have a particularly active lifestyle, which might result in damaging a softer metal, stainless steel is a good choice. We use 3161 stainless steel, which is a 6 on the MOH scale, making it harder than platinum and palladium. This steel type is commonly used in medical implants and for body piercings. It will never rust, is highly durable, lightweight, extremely resistant to corrosion and damage, and nearly impossible to scratch.

Our stainless steel rings are made up of a mix of alloys, including chromium, molybdenum and up to 15% nickel. The nickel in stainless steel, unlike the nickel in white gold, is bound very tightly within the metal. It reacts differently to the skin than nickel in white gold. We have never seen anyone have an allergic reaction to stainless steel. Stainless steel is hypoallergenic and recommended as a good option for people who are allergic to other metals.

The stainless steel wedding rings we sell look very much like 14K white gold. We have a limited range, as they are offered only through Katherine Aberle's studio. They are handcrafted with the same care as rings made with platinum. You get the quality and workmanship of a small jewelry studio, with exquisite designs, at a price that is more affordable than other precious metals.

Environmental Matters
From an environmental point of view, stainless steel is abundant. Refining is far less toxic than precious metals.