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Stainless Steel Jewelry vs. Sterling Silver vs. Zinc Alloy

Stainless Steel Jewelry vs. Sterling Silver vs. Zinc Alloy main article image
Posted on August 6, 2021 by Siri Churingajewelry
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316L Stainless Steel Jewelry

316L stainless steel is very resistant to rust, oxidation, and discoloration. No matter the force or frequency of use, it rarely reveals traces of dents or scratches, even after years of employment. It is often used in marine applications where the steel is constantly exposed to moisture. It is also used in food and beverage processing and chemical processing applications. It is a corrosion-resistant alloy which ideal for long-lasting jewelry designs.

Though people do not consider it as a precious metal, it is much more durable than silver or platinum.

This durability is due to a Chromium coating that is chemically bonded to the steel. The invisible coating protects the steel underneath from oxidation (tarnishing and rusting). It also protects against scratching by taking the initial impact of a scratch and then resealing itself. This process, called passivation, is the spontaneous formation of a hard non-reactive surface film that prohibits further corrosion.

Does stainless steel jewelry tarnish?

Stainless steel is durable and resists corrosion and oxidation. Our stainless steel jewelry will not rust, tarnish, or turn your skin green, even if worn daily. More reasons why Stainless Steel is the best… Unlike many other metals, these are safe to wear and no harm will come if you wear stainless steel jewelry for life.

Sterling Silver

What alloy is in sterling silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy consisting of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. Pure silver is usually too soft to make anything functional or durable, and therefore alloying the silver with another metal allows it to have the strength of another metal, with the flexibility and lustrous appearance of silver. People use sterling silver to make jewelry, cutlery, and musical instruments. You can find further learning on why to choose sterling silver for jewelry here.

What is a silver alloy?

A silver alloy is a metal that contains silver and one or more additional metals. Since silver is a very soft metal and highly reactive to the air, it is typically used as an alloy.

Zinc Alloy Jewelry

What is Zinc alloy jewelry?

Most jewelry makers will hardly use zinc in its pure form, but they will blend it with other metals to come up with zinc alloys. Some of these casting alloys include copper, brass, bronze, soft solder, and German silver. Accordingly, the resulting alloy will have acronyms such as ZAMAK.

Two of the best-known zinc alloys are brass. People make brass up of zinc and copper, and make nickel silver of nickel-copper and zinc.

Brass, an alloy of Zinc that contains between 55% and 95% Copper, is among the best-known alloys as it is not usually named too many times as a top allergen to earring wearers or other jewelry.

The use of Brass dates back 2500 years and was widely used by the Romans and is commonly used today, particularly in musical instruments and many hardware applications that must resist corrosion. Brass is known for corrosion resistance, mainly because zinc reacts with carbon dioxide when they come into contact, preventing any further reaction and making the metal durable.

What does Zinc alloy contain?

Of course, since it’s an alloy, it will contain several metals.

  • Brass

People use it more on the constructions but especially when you are making the cast items and jewels. Brass is also a beneficiary of zinc since it features the use of zinc and copper.

  • Nickel silver

Zinc will also create the nickel-copper alloy that’s best known as nickel silver. They use it to make the silverware too. Notice, though, that the alloy has no silver; instead, its color gives it this unique name.

Notice that when you are making alloys, you will have zinc as part of it too. They sometimes have lead and tin. It may also contain copper and many other elements like aluminum. We always advise, though, that if you choose one for your jewels, you should choose the one with no toxic metals like lead, cadmium, and nickel. So the zinc alloy jewels are just the jewel that has zinc alloy as part of the product composition.

Is Zinc Alloy good material?

Though some Zinc alloys can be very strong, overall stainless steel is stronger. However, zinc is a heavy element, and when alloyed with other metals it provides better corrosion resistance, stability, dimensional strength, and impact strength. Ultimately, which alloy to use will depend on your casting needs.

Is Zinc alloy safe for jewelry?

Zinc alloy jewelry can turn your skin green. Some of your jewelry’s metal components can cause green discoloration on your skin when you wear them. The metals which can cause the skin to turn green are copper, nickel, and silver. Two types of zinc alloy jewelry are brass and nickel silver.

Brass is the most common metal used in zinc alloy. People say that brass is safe, durable, and corrosion-resistant. Remember, if you use a lot of copper, it may also cause skin reactions. Therefore, if you use the ones that are free of lead, we may say that they are safe.

Although it may be rare, we have a few people who are allergic to zinc metal. In such cases, therefore, it’s unsafe.

Nonetheless, if you don’t have a metal allergy, then the zinc alloy should be safe. Generally, the zinc metal will contain lead, nickel, copper. Nickel is the leading cause of allergies. Lead is also toxic, and for a long time, the governments have been canceled as a metal to avoid just because it affects the nervous system.

Therefore, we would say it depends on the zinc alloy you used for the jewels. Some of them are safe, while others are not. High-quality zinc alloy is safe to make jewelry because it is lead-free, and lead is the toxic substance that makes most jewelry unsafe to wear. When you expose zinc alloy to air, it reacts with carbon dioxide to form zinc carbonate. The carbonate acts as a protective layer for zinc, stopping it from further reacting to water or air.

Does Zinc alloy jewelry rust?

Zinc alloy is a very common and popular material for jewelry components due to its versatility and low cost. … Like most metals, zinc alloy can tarnish and discolor. Depending on a variety of factors (metal content, finish, exposure to certain conditions), this can happen very quickly, or take several months.

Does Zinc rust?

Zinc does rust. Like all metals, zinc corrodes when exposed to air and moisture. However, this element does not rust like most other metals. Iron, for example, reacts with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to form hydrated iron (III) oxide on the surface of the metal.

Benefits of using the Zinc alloy for jewelry

  • Zinc alloy is easy to be made and used

This is the one meal you won’t struggle to make. This is your go-to material when you are looking for easy-to-use options. They are, in fact, nicely soft to mold.

  • Zinc alloy is affordable

Lower total cost compared to steel. Dimensional consistency for high product quality. We are used to precious metals that are also not easy to access. When we talk about zinc alloy, the right thing here is that this is readily accessible. Don’t also forget that the zinc alloy is cheaper.

  • Zinc alloy jewelry durability

It is durable as the protective layer protects the metal alloy from reacting any time soon after purchase. Notice that the zinc alloy will keep the corrosion out, which will mean that the metals will serve you longer. The alloy is hard and will form a zinc carbonate layer, which prevents further reactions.

Zinc metal in its pure form is a very strong metal. However, when combined with other metals such as copper and nickel-copper, it increases zinc’s dimensional and impact strength as well as its stability and corrosion resistance.

However, copper in brass is known to oxidize with the skin, causing the jewelry to tarnish and your skin to turn green. Luckily, this tarnishing effect does not occur immediately. The reason being that zinc reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to form a protective film that bars any further reaction of the metal, promoting the durability of the jewelry piece.

Several factors affect the durability of zinc alloy jewelry. Some of them include oxidation and other chain reactions, high temperatures and humidity, and abrasions and dents that may result in the jewelry piece cracking. Zinc alloy pieces are beautiful and durable. However, you have to take good care of them to promote their longevity.

  • Zinc alloy is rust-proof and corrosion-resistant

Most metals will often react to air or water in the environment. Well, once the zinc alloy forms the zinc carbonate layer, there will be no more reactions. Corrosion is therefore unheard of with zinc metals.

  • Zinc alloy is versatile

Zinc alloy is versatile as it easily combines with other metals. You can use it for your necklace, anklets, bracelets, or rings. They are safe to use for any jewelry but mostly if you will also plate it at some point. The versatility also means you can use it for different occasions.

Cons of using zinc alloy for jewelry

  • Zinc alloy is somewhat weak when compared to other metals like platinum and titanium
  • It is not very attractive to look at, especially when it tarnishes

Does Zinc alloy jewelry tarnish?

Zinc alloy is a very common and popular material for jewelry components due to its versatility and low cost. Like most metals, zinc alloy can tarnish and discolor.

Does Zinc alloy jewelry change color?

Yes, it does the same way other metals like brass does. On most days, it will change to green-brown or black. In the presence of oxygen, you will expect the metal sot change its color. Sometimes the corrosion will cause the color to be pinkish or reddish.

Does zinc alloy jewelry turn your skin green?

Zinc alloy jewelry can turn your skin green. Jewelry, in general, is made up of metal alloys. Some of your jewelry’s metal components can cause green discoloration on your skin when you wear them.
Yes, it mostly has copper in the mix, so yes, it will change the skin color to green. Remember, the skin color isn’t at all toxic. You only need to wipe it out, and that’s about it.

Zinc alloy jewelry allergy and how to deal with it?

Different people have different metal allergies, while others have none. When it comes to brass, some people may show signs of copper metal allergy, resulting in blisters, itchy skin, and rashes. Nickel silver, which consists of zinc, copper, and nickel, is a more common form of zinc alloy that causes allergic reactions to its wearers.

Nickel is a well-known cause of allergic reactions and is the most widely used metal alloy in the world. Some allergic reactions you may experience from nickel include skin redness, swelling, tenderness, and dry patches, in extreme cases. Severe cases of allergic reactions include pus-filled blisters and painful skin.

Once you find out you have zinc alloy allergies from wearing your jewelry, it is best to avoid wearing that piece to prevent further complications. You may also opt to use various soothing creams to control inflammation and reduce your body’s histamine response.

Depending on the severity of the reactions, the doctor or pharmacist may prescribe over-the-counter antihistamines or stronger medications. Some home remedies for metal allergies include applying cool and wet compresses, using calamine lotion, or hydrating body lotion.

Zinc Alloy vs. Stainless Steel Jewelry

Zinc is cheaper than chromium, and therefore, in general, zinc alloys are relatively less expensive than compared to stainless steel. Though more expensive, stainless steel is a strong, tough material noted for its corrosion resistance. Though some Zinc alloys can be very strong, overall stainless steel is stronger.

When comparing the two alloys per cost, the price of stainless steel is more because of its chromium content. Zinc is cheaper than chromium, and therefore, in general, zinc alloys are relatively less expensive than compared to stainless steel. Though more expensive, stainless steel is a strong, tough material noted for its corrosion resistance. Though some Zinc alloys can be very strong, overall stainless steel is stronger. However, zinc is a heavy element, and when alloyed with other metals it provides better corrosion resistance, stability, dimensional strength, and impact strength. Because of a lower casting temperature, zinc provides a much longer die life which further adds to reducing production costs. When it comes to casting components with tight tolerances and areas with thinner wall sections, no other alloys compare to the zinc alloys.

Ultimately, which alloy to use will depend on your casting needs. In general, due to differences in cost zinc is usually preferred for larger items where aesthetics are less important (outdoor equipment) while stainless steel is most often used for smaller items where aesthetics matter (indoor use and decor).

316L Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver Jewelry

Both stainless steel and sterling silver are alloy metals, meaning people make them of metals made from a combination of two other metals. People make stainless steel from steel and chromium, and make sterling silver from silver and another metal, which is usually copper, though people will also use zinc or platinum.

Beauty and strength

All high-tech applications aside, the very characteristics that make 316L surgical stainless steel good for medical use are the same reasons it is such an excellent medium for making jewelry. It may take a little more effort to bend and shape, but the result is guaranteed to hold the integrity of its design for a good long time. And its finish won’t corrode or degrade, no matter what you do to it. It is resistant to rust and other by-products of oxidation, such as tarnishing, which is an unfortunate characteristic of most silver jewelry.

Non-allergenic

While sterling silver is generally safe to wear, some people still have allergies to silver, nickel, or copper. Some sterling silver jewelry manufacturers will plate their pieces with rhodium to prevent them from tarnishing, but this coating will likely erode over time. Additionally, there are plenty of ‘fakes’ out there – silver pieces that are marked 925, but actually have a higher degree of other metals, like nickel. As with most things, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Additionally, people who take certain medications are constantly having to replace their treasured jewelry because gold and silver will pit and discolor in the presence of certain chemicals. This issue is non-existent with surgical stainless steel.

Highly durable

Any accessory or piece of jewelry that is going to be put to a lot of use will last longer if people make it from stainless steel. For key chains, bracelets, pendants, or lanyards, people would prefer surgical stainless steel, as it can take a beating and still retain its finish and beauty.

ThreeChains

Three Chains

Zinc alloy vs. Stainless Steel Jewelry

Strength

When it comes down to choosing between the two alloys, a maker will have to select the one that favors their market. Zinc alloys are strong, easy to mold, and will not corrode when people let them out in the environment. They are cheap too and so people’s target here is the larger market. On the other hand, they need a careful combination as too much copper will lead to allergic reactions.

Where zinc is strong, stainless steel is stronger, thanks to the elements that come together to make it. The products which people make from stainless steel alloys can last for years and still look as good as new. They may be a tad expensive, but they are also esthetically appealing.

Naturally, stainless steel is a better alloy when the three are in contrast. If you want further to know about why stainless steel is better for jewelry, visit Why Choose Stainless Steel Jewelry to discover more surprises.

Metal in Contact     Atmospheric
(Rural)     
Atmospheric
(Industrial
/Urban)
Immersed
(Marine)
Immersed
(Fresh
Water)
Immersed
(Sea
Water)
Aluminum and aluminum alloys 0 0 to 1 0 to 1 1 2 to 3
Aluminum bronzes and silicon bronzes 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Brasses including high tensile (HT) brass ( manganese bronze) 0 to 1 1 0 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Cadmium 0 0 0 0 0
Cast Irons 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 3
Cast Iron (austenitic) 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Chromium 0 to 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Copper 0 to 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Cupro-nickels 0 to 1 0 to 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Gold (0 to 1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (2 to 3)
Gunmetals, phosphor bronzes and tine bronzes 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Lead 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 2 (0 to 2)
Magnesium and Magnesium alloys 0 0 0 0 0
Nickel 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Nickel copper alloys 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Nickel-chromium-iron alloys (0 to 1) (1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 3)
Nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloys (0 to 1) (1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 3)
Nickel silvers 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 3
Platinum (0 to 1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (2 to 3)
Rhodium (0 to 1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (2 to 3)
Silver (0 to 1) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (1 to 2) (2 to 3)
Solders hard 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 2 to 3
Solders soft 0 0 0 0
Stainless Steel (austenitic and other grades containing approximately 13% chromium) 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 2 1 to 2
Stainless Steel (martensitic grades containing approximately 13% chromium) 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 2 1 to 2
Steels (carbon and low alloy) 0 to 1 1 1 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 2
Tin 0 0 to 1 1 1 1 to 2
Titanium and titanium alloys (0 to 1) (1) (1 to 2) (0 to 2) (1 to 3)
Key:
0: Zinc and galvanized steel will suffer either no additional corrosion or at the most only very slightly additional corrosion, usually tolerable in service.
1: Zinc and galvanized steel will suffer slight to moderate additional corrosion that may be tolerable in some circumstances.
2: Zinc and galvanized steel may suffer fairly severe additional corrosion and protective measures will usually be necessary.
3: Zinc and galvanized steel may suffer severe additional corrosion and the contact should be avoided.
General Notes: Ratings in brackets are based on very limited evidence and hence are less certain than other values shown. The table is in terms of additional corrosion and the symbol “0” should not be taken to imply that the metals in contact need no protection under all conditions of exposure.
Source: British Standard Institute, pp 6484: 1979, Table 23

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