Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver Jewelries

I recently overheard a heated discussion (that bordered on an argument) about the choice of precious metal for a man-engagement ring. This person and potential his better half spent a large part of their afternoon bickering about it and yet, couldn’t come to an agreement on it.

The bone of contention? Stainless steel vs. Sterling Silver!

That’s a debate as old as any when it comes to jewelry.

Both these metals can look almost identical, seem to have the same luster and if crafted by an expert jeweler, you cannot tell the two apart.

Yet, both of these are as different as chalk and cheese.

Apart from the price tag, what makes one a better choice over the other and if one is indeed better than the other, which one is it?

I figured that with the wedding season popping its head over the horizon, this was the perfect time to blog about it. So here goes.

Diff in physical characteristics

Sterling silver is a blend of pure silver along with other metal alloys that is used for making jewelry as well as in other industrial applications. Pure sterling silver contains at least 92.5% of silver and 7.5 % of other metals (typically copper) and will have 925 stamped on it. If the jewelry is advertised as sterling silver and it does not have the 926 stamp, then it is most likely fake with even lesser silver content and will deteriorate a lot sooner than you’d expect it to.

Silver in its pure form, it is too soft to be used in jewelry. So much so, that the jeweler can even bend it with their fingers. Picture a pure silver ring on your hands or a pendant on your neck in a real life scenario. There’s every possibility of it getting snagged, bent and even broken. That’s why sterling silver was created, which looks exactly like silver but is a much better choice for use in jewelry.

One of the reasons why people prefer silver jewelry is because of its soft luster and receptive quality. It is associated with the lunar cycle and believed to enhance creativity.

Stainless Steel, on the other hand, is a group of metal alloys that vary in their chemical composition. There are almost 150 different varieties of stainless steel. So, if you think that the stainless steel used on the espresso maker that rests on your countertop is the same as the one in jewelry, then you are mistaken.

Stainless steel jewelry has recently risen in popularity over sterling silver because of its ability to offer better light reflection after polishing. And there are tons of finishes that are possible with it. It can be made to mimic chrome or have brushed finish like pewter. It is harder and ideal for everyday use due to its resistance to scratches and dents.

The Pros and cons of sterling silver jewelry

Each metal has its own advantages and cons. When it comes to sterling silver, it is a very beautiful metal with several advantages and a couple of reasons why someone may dislike it.


  • Sterling silver is one of the easiest precious metals to mold into rings, necklaces, pendants or just about any type of jewelry. It can also taken on a variety of attractive colors and finishes. You can choose to have your sterling silver ring in bright white or complete black. It can be high gloss or have a matte finish.
  • To increase its durability and make it more suited for everyday use, some jewelers add palladium along with copper to the 7.5 % of metal alloy composition. This increases the hardness of sterling silver to approximately 3.5 on the MOH scale.
  • Due to the softness of the metal, mounting gemstones on it is not usually recommended unless you use a gold prong mount. The other option is to use a bezel setting for mounting the gemstone.
  • Silver gradually wears to attain a very beautiful finish with tiny imperfections that it attains every single day that you wear it. I personally love this natural finish and feel that it accentuates the beauty of the metal.


  • A lot of people do not appreciate the fact that a brand new piece of jewelry can look like it’s a decade old in the span of a year. That’s one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people prefer other metals like stainless over silver.
  • It will be prone to dents and scratches more than any other type of precious metal.
  • There are a lot of fake sterling silver jewelry being peddled in retail outlets and in the online marketplace.

The Pros and Cons of stainless steel jewelry

Stainless holds a slight edge over sterling silver. It can be designed to mimic sterling silver, is more durable than it and is cost effective too.  


  • Stainless steel will not dent or get scratched like sterling silver. The chromium in the alloy makes it impervious to oxidation too. Even if you wear it every single day, it will retain its luster and look as good as new a year later.
  • There is an array of beautiful finishes in stainless steel jewelry now. It can be made to resemble white gold, sterling silver or be plated with rose gold or yellow gold. You can essentially get the look of any precious metal fine jewelry at the fraction of the price.


  • The durability comes at the cost of rigidity which makes stainless steel jewelry very difficult to repair or resize. If it does get damaged, then the only option you may have is to recycle it and get it remade.
  • Some varieties of stainless steel can trigger allergies in people who are allergic to nickel. However, most jewelers these days offer hypoallergenic versions of stainless.

To sum it up

It would be difficult to pick a clear winner if these were to be pitted against each other. And I think I know why they spent the afternoon in debate. Well, it boils down to personal choice. If it were up to me, I’d go with stainless, especially since I lead an active outdoorsy lifestyle.

On the other hand, if someone prefers something that is more precious in terms of value, sterling silver would be a better choice.