Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver: What You Need to Know

Stainless steel vs sterling silver—which one is best for jewelry? You may be pondering this question at the moment as you’re deciding on which silverware to buy. And if this is indeed your concern, then this content is specially made just for you! In today’s topic, I will discuss the unique characteristics of each metal alloy and its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the article, I’ll also present my verdict on which of them best suits your preferences and needs. So which one is better, stainless steel or sterling silver? Let’s begin and find out…

Stainless steel

What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is a metal alloy that’s primarily composed of carbon, iron, and chromium. In some cases, manufacturers also add nickels and other metallic compounds to improve the characteristics of the jewelry. As a result of the admixture, it makes stainless steel very reliable against corrosion, scratches, and tarnish. They are extremely tough on weathering that it can last for many generations even without proper care. Such feature also makes them highly sought after in jewelry, accessory parts, household utensils, etc.

Aside from its corrosive-resistant properties and durability, stainless steel is also considered environmentally friendly because there’s no limit regarding the metals’ recyclability. Unlike other metals, stainless steel is also sustainable and doesn’t leach when exposed to water. Furthermore, they’re very affordable yet aesthetically pleasing, low maintenance, and elegant in their own way.

Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel

As reliable as stainless steel jewelry is, you have to remember that it is relatively inexpensive. Therefore, you can expect that the metal alloy does lack some qualities in comparison to high-end metals. Anyway, the following points below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of stainless that you have to take note of—


  • As mentioned, stainless steel is low maintenance.
  • An excellent piece for daily use because they are resistant to scratches and harsh conditions
  • Highly resistant to corrosion
  • Jewelry and accessories made from stainless steel are lightweight and comfortable to wear
  • Budget-friendly
  • Stainless steel is well-known due to its hypoallergenic feature. It means that they are suitable for people with skin allergies
  • It is generally safe because they’re a poor conductor of electricity
  • Environmentally-friendly


  • It is difficult to resize because the metal is very hard
  • Although it is resistant to scratches, it may be prone to dentation upon contact with heavy objects

What is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is a metal composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metallic compounds, mainly copper. While other metals most craftsmen used may include zinc or nickel. Sterling silver has a decent tolerance for tarnish. However, an issue with the metal is that it’s very soft and malleable. Although it’s an advantage to the jewelry maker, it can be disadvantageous to the jewelry owner because it makes them prone to scratches, dentation, and even breakage.

The copper in sterling silver jewelry makes the accessory hard and durable, but it may also lead to depreciation when exposed to a harsh environment. In general, the metal is resistant to weathering. However, the copper material found in sterling silver may corrode when constantly place within an area that has a high concentration of airborne ozone and hydrogen sulfide or air pollution.

Pros and Cons of Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is definitely a budget-friendly choice for people who don’t have enough money to afford high-end jewelry. This may be the case—it still gives you some level of lustrous and luxury, same as gold and platinum. However, just like stainless steel, it has some drawbacks which you have to consider. Now, let’s check each of the advantages and disadvantages of using sterling silver jewelry—


  • Very affordable compared to high-end jewelry like gold
  • Although they’re relatively cheap, sterling silver is aesthetically pleasing and perfect for any formal gatherings
  • Due to its malleability, you can find a wide range of jewelry pieces with complex designs


  • It needs regular maintenance, especially if its frequently used
  • Again, the metal is very soft that could break or render scratches to its surface

In the next section, I’ll further discuss the topic of stainless steel vs sterling silver. I’ll particularly provide a comparison of their quality, value, price, physical characteristics, and safety.

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver – How to Tell the Difference

Although the core metals of the two forms of metal alloys are silver, the admixed are completely different. Therefore, its elemental composition does affect the performance of each of the metals, and this also explains why stainless steel is harder and more durable than sterling silver. Let’s pinpoint   

How to Tell the Difference between Silver and Stainless

There are several factors to refer to in distinguishing stainless steel from sterling silver, and here they are—

  • Markings – stainless steel normally has brandings that begin with either an ASTM or AES bar code. On the other hand, a sterling silver if it has the markings of S925 or 925.
  • Malleability test – as mentioned, sterling steel is soft. Thus, try bending the jewelry piece. If it bends, then it’s likely sterling silver. On the other hand, if it’s hard and can’t bend, then it’s stainless steel
  • Odor – for this test, you may need expertise in identifying metals through your sense of smell. But to give you the gist of it, copper emits a metallic odor if you put them near your nose. This is especially true with 925 sterling silvers
  • Weight – stainless steel is a lot heavier than sterling silver

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver Color

Probably the most prominent identifying factor between sterling silver and stainless steel is their color. Now, this is where sterling silver has a huge advantage over stainless steel. When properly cared of, sterling silver is shiny and has a more radiant silver color, while stainless steel has a dull silver surface.

Which to Choose

In regards to which one is better—stainless steel vs sterling silver, the answer may rely on your personal reference. If you’re looking for affordable jewelry that has the same aesthetics as high-end accessories, then sterling silver may be the best option. However, its downside is that it may not be advisable for everyday use because it’s not resistant to scratches. It could tarnish if it’s exposed to environments with a high concentration of air pollution.

On the other hand, stainless steel may not have that lustrous shine of sterling, but it is extremely durable and resistant to corrosion. Therefore, if you’re looking for a jewelry piece for everyday use, then you can opt for those that are made of stainless steel.

What is More Expensive Sterling Silver or Stainless Steel?

The cost of stainless steel varies depending on the quality and alloys that were admixed with the silver. However, sterling silver is still significantly more expensive than stainless steel.

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver for Sensitive Ears

Since stainless steel is generally hypoallergenic, does it mean that it’s a better option than sterling silver stud earrings? Is stainless steel better than sterling silver for sensitive ears? Well, stainless steel stud earrings are highly recommended if you have skin allergies. It is generally hypoallergenic and doesn’t trigger allergens. Therefore, stainless silverware might be a good option if you have sensitive ears.

Lastly, let me remind you that the bottom line is purchasing the jewelry that best suits your preference and specific needs in choosing the winner between stainless steel vs sterling silver.

Frequently Asked Questions about Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver

Some of the commonly asked questions about stainless steel vs sterling silver are the following—

What Lasts Longer Stainless Steel or Sterling Silver?

Stainless steel can lasts for many years even if it’s exposed to harsh weathering constantly. On the other hand, sterling silver isn’t recommended for everyday use and is in need of regular maintenance.

Is Stainless Steel Cheaper than Sterling Silver?

Yes, stainless steel is way cheaper than sterling silver. However, the only con of stainless steel is that some of them may indeed appear substandard without the lustrous shine similar to the sterling silver.

Is Sterling Silver Stronger than Stainless Steel?

No. stainless steel is harder and more durable than sterling silver.

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