Argentium™ Sterling Silver, pronounced Ar-GEN-tee-um and sometimes simply called Argentium or Argentium silver, is a new alloy developed by Peter Johns, a professor of silversmithing at Middlesex University in England. I use the abreviation AS to stand for Argentium Sterling on this website.
Argentium silver is a wonderful material to own. It tarnishes more slowly than regular sterling silver, and if it's stored properly, will not tarnish at all so there's no need to spend time cleaning your jewelry before wearing it!
By U.S. law, a silver alloy must contain at least 92.5% pure silver for the material to be labeled Sterling Silver. There is at least that much pure silver in Argentium™ so it correctly considered Sterling Silver.
Pure silver is too soft to use for jewelry so other metals are added, creating an alloy. In silver alloys the main strengthener is copper, which reacts easily with oxygen, moisture and sulfides to create tarnish. There is also copper in Argentium silver, but it's a smaller percentage than the amount used in traditional sterling silver. The additional metal added to make Argentium is germanium. Unlike copper, germanium loves oxygen so much it migrates to the surface to chemically bond with oxygen. Rather than create tarnish, the bond forms a protective barrier so that sulfides do not have contact with the copper in the alloy, and the chemical reaction that results in tarnish cannot begin.
There may be some copper molecules exposed to the air, which is why Argentium is correctly described as “highly tarnish-resistant silver” rather than non-tarnishing silver. If you're in an unusually humid or polluted environment, any silver will react to the moisture and sulfides in the air and start to tarnish. But, even in such an environment, Argentium will tarnish more slowly than traditional sterling silver. Regardless of environment, if jewelry made from Argentium silver is properly stored in anti-tarnish tissue and bags, then it may never tarnish at all.
Argentium sets new purity standards for silver. Argentium is always purer than traditional sterling silver. It is certified that Argentium is produced using only recycled silver. Argentium guarantees traceability of its raw silver.
Argentium alloys do not contain nickel.
Care Instructions for Argentium Silver:
Protect Argentium® Sterling just as you would traditional sterling by storing it in an airtight bag when not wearing and keeping it from direct contact with any chemicals, including sunscreen, perfume, hairspray, deodarant spray, body lotion, acetone, bleach or turpentine.
More costly than traditional sterling, Argentium® Sterling Silver is highly tarnish-resistant and needs far less care. Argentium® Sterling Silver jewelry can be easily cleaned with mild soap and lukewarm water and its shine restored with a polishing cloth reserved only for Argentium® jewelry. When body oils accumulate on your jewelry: wash, rinse and dry. Simply use Dawn or non-ultra dishwashing liquid for a quick cleaning.
Avoid ionic cleaners, ionized water, harsh cleaning chemicals and chlorine. Do not use any sterling silver cleaner or polish on Argentium® sterling silver.