Amongst all the items in our wardrobe, jewellery holds a special place. From sterling silver to brass, gold and stainless steel, jewellery is something we buy to feel special, gift to someone we treasure or mark a memorable occasion. Then of course, there are the pieces we buy simply because we like them.
That’s the easy part because jewellery racks are becoming increasingly busy with accessories in different metals. Today, when you shop for a piece of jewellery, you’re likely to find yourself faced with the choice of buying a piece in sterling silver, stainless steel or brass. Which should you choose?
How do sterling silver, stainless steel and brass compare when it comes to our jewellery? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of sterling silver, stainless steel and brass jewellery.
Sterling silver vs stainless steel vs brass jewellery – which is better?
Sterling silver: Pros and cons
Precious metal: Brass, sterling silver and stainless steel are all alloys but sterling silver is the only one of the three which is a precious metal – this is the biggest difference between the three metals.
Sterling silver is made from 92.5% silver plus 7.5% copper to enhance its strength (hence the term 925 sterling silver). Its high silver content makes sterling silver a precious metal with true value.
Brass and stainless steel on the other hand, are not as valuable. Brass is made from a mixture of copper and zinc whilst stainless steel is a combination of steel alloys making them much more affordable.
Value: Sterling silver has a beautiful gleam, soft luster and smooth surface that puts sterling silver on equal footing with the appearance of solid gold and platinum. Sterling silver even has a place on the periodic table!
Beyond wedding and engagement rings, a high percentage of our jewellery is a mid-priced buy. Precious metals (we use 14K gold and extremely rare Rhodium) is electroplated over 925 sterling silver, therefore makes it possible to get all the benefits of a precious metal without the highest price tags that come with solid gold or solid platinum jewellery.
- Design: Its value, stunning appearance and ability to be teased into dazzling designs means sterling silver is a highly popular choice for beautiful handcrafted jewellery designed to impress. That means lots of jewellers choose to make rings, bracelets and necklaces in 925 sterling silver.
Skin sensitivity: Of the three metals, sterling silver is the purest metal because it’s mostly made from silver with only a tiny percentage of copper.
With Sterling Silver you know exactly what you’re getting so those who are sensitive to certain types of metal such as brass, usually find they can wear 925 sterling silver.
Maintenance: Over time you do need to clean sterling silver jewellery with silver polish or a polish cloth to retain it in its best condition. You should also keep sterling silver jewellery out of the bathroom because taking a shower or bath with sterling silver jewellery on will soon damage its appearance.
Treat sterling silver jewellery with care because lots of hard knocks can affect its shape or damage the most delicate parts of a design.
Most of our stunning rings are available in 14K Gold-plated or Rhodium-plated 925 Sterling Silver because it’s a precious metal that’s the most receptive to beautiful design and isn't susceptible to oxidising.
Stainless steel: Pros and cons
- Value: Stainless steel is an alloy comprised of a number of non-precious metals so it has a much lower price point than 925 sterling silver.
- Maintenance: Instead, stainless steel’s value comes from its durability. Stainless steel is a highly resistant material that resists water and knocks. It won’t tarnish and is easy to maintain so it’s well-suited for everyday use. You can even shower with stainless steel jewellery on those lazy days.
- Design: Stainless steel reflects the light well so it delivers an appealing gleaming finish once polished. It has a slightly darker hue than plated brass or sterling silver for an alternative look. Although toughness has its advantages for product design, for the complexities of jewellery-making the high resistance of stainless steel makes it difficult to use for intricate pieces so you’ll find stainless steel jewellery in more minimal styles.
- Skin sensitivity: If you’re sensitive to brass but want to buy jewellery at a lower price point than sterling silver, you may find stainless steel works for you.
Brass: Pros and cons
Value: Of the three base metals, brass is the most affordable. brass is used as the base metal then electroplated in real 14K , 18K gold and Rhodium; therefore brass is a great candidate for producing the same luminous platinum and gold-plated designer ring at a much lower price point if looks is the only thing you’re after.
Maintenance: Brass has many hardwearing qualities and it is more durable than sterling silver. However oxidation means that brass jewellery is not made for everyday wear.
Oxidation happens when brass reacts with Sulphur in the air. We recommend storing brass jewellery in pouches when not in use. Additionally, salts and hand creams may cause oxidation so brass rings on sweaty fingers on a night out may result in green fingers on those with acidic skin.
There are several ways to prevent oxidation with a little maintenance such as applying a polymer barrier or nail varnish on the inside of your rings, properly storing your jewellery, not showering with them on and putting rings on only when hands are dry.
- Design: The beautiful bright plating has instant appeal. Brass can be fashioned into all sorts of pretty designs so you’ll find plenty of brass rings amongst fast fashion accessories at low price points.
- Skin sensitivity: Some people find they are sensitive to brass. If you usually find that you get a rash from wearing brass or often get green fingers due to acidic skin or environmental conditions (even from high quality brass-based designer jewellery!), opt for sterling silver or stainless steel instead.
Brass base jewellery is more suited for occasional wear. With Brass, customers may find that skin greening only occurs in sweaty fingers but are absolutely fine with bracelets, necklaces and even earrings because our wrist, neck and ears are less exposed to sweat therefore preventing oxidising. So as long as you’re not allergic to copper, definitely go for that brass base tennis bracelet you have been eyeing!
So should I buy brass, sterling silver or stainless steel jewellery?
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer! Each material has its own set of unique qualities which may suit a certain person’s fashion and lifestyle better than the other. The main question you need to ask yourself is, what do I want it for?
If you’re looking for something you can wear often to add some sparkle and glamour to your weekend outfits, and is a piece that’s going to last, we’d advise 925 Sterling Silver.
However if you’re not interested in spending that little extra to get something that will last longer, and are looking for more of a unique accessory you can throw on to spice up certain outfits, then Brass would be a great option for you!
Then there’s the person who wants something to wear all day everyday and will never take it off, something that is going to stand the true test of time and loves that more minimal aesthetic, in this case we’d advise Stainless steel.
All in all, certain styles of jewellery only work with certain metals, so it’s very likely that no single person will only fit in one of these categories, having a little of everything in your jewellery box gives you and your jewellery the options you need to be ready for any and every occasion.
We all shop across price brackets so we have something for everyone’s needs and price points. And that’s why we love to shop!