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Softness of Silver and Gold
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Any metal used for jewelry save tungsten carbide will eventually get scratched or dinged unless permanently enshrined in an archival museum storage facility. Regardless, durable jewelry has been made from all kinds of metals, creating the most stunning works imaginable.

From a scientific standpoint there is no arguing that pure silver and gold are soft at 2.5 to 3 on the Mohs scale. Household dust is closer to 6 or 7. That is why rubbing your finger across a gold or silver object inevitably will leave small scratch marks. Hardened silver and some specialty alloys are a bit more robust but they're still silver.

I have been wearing 0.999 fine silver bracelets 24 hours a day for more than five years now as of the time of the writing (and still as of 2/2022, so 12+ years). Swimming in chlorinated pools and salty oceans, exercising, working with tools on heavy machinery...they get serious use in all conditions and seasons, seeing more abuse in a few years than some would see in a lifetime.

They obviously don't maintain a mirror polish. However, the character from the minor surface marks enhances their beauty...natural texturing which now throws light in every direction. Any damage is negligible, cosmetic at worst.

 
Normal prong settings are totally inappropriate and will fail.
 
Metals have various states of hardness: dead-soft, ¼ hard, ½ hard, ¾ hard, hard, and spring. Dead-soft is when a metal is fully annealed; it is most pliable, ductile, and malleable. Spring is the other extreme which is generally more brittle, less susceptible to scratching or deforming, and less malleable.

Make no mistake that annealed pure silver is as soft a metal as imaginable. It is difficult to work with something so pliable and easily damaged.

Hardening can be achieved through working and manipulating the piece or mechanical surface treatments like bead blasting and tumbling. Regardless, pure silver or gold pieces will not disintegrate from daily use or become unrecognizable after a few months. They are still metal though less susceptible to hardening than alloys.

There is one huge note of caution about setting stones in pure silver or gold. Normal prong settings are totally inappropriate and will fail. Tension-set is a decided no-no. Therefore, a bezel-style or inset mount would be necessary, or the stone would have to be otherwise secured in a manner not reliant on the outright strength of a small portion of metal.


Posted by M: May 15, 2015


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