Silver is a natural element, one of the noble metals (resistant to corrosion & oxidation), with the chemical symbol Ag (Latin: argentum).  Silver can be easily worked, has a low soldering and casting temperature, takes a great mirror polish and has an affordable price for jewelry.  The tarnish typically seen on silver is from the copper alloy used to give needed strength.

Silver has been used to create jewelry from the early days of civilization.  It has a classic look that goes well with other items both natural & man made.  Price may be the main draw for many while others prefer its look over that of gold.

Silver comes in a range of qualities much like gold and like gold, you need to understand what you are paying for.  This has been a problem for many centuries and laws have been enacted to guaranty it's quality.  As with most laws there is never a shortage of people that are willing to break them.

Sterling Silver
This is a term that we find being used to describe many different items.  It should only be used to describe silver that has 925 parts or higher per 1000 of pure silver.  Terms like sterling silver plated are often used to confuse buyers into thinking that the item is of high quality when it may be nothing more than a thin plate over a base metal.  We have even found some items stamped 925 that are cheap knock offs.  As the price of silver increases more of this fake material seems to reach the market.  Jewelers use a quick nitric acid test to verify sterling silver while the addition of  potassium dichromate can determine the approximate percentage of silver.  Know who you are purchasing from and that they will stand behind the products they are selling.

Stamping is not required by US law and a number of sterling silver items are not hallmarked.  Hallmarks are an official mark of guaranteed metal content, typically "925" or "Sterling".  Non hallmarked items are more common with small manufactures and handmade items.  Just about all high quality findings are stamped with a "maker's mark" plus hallmark.  Beads and jump / split rings are rarely marked.  Designers will often include a quality tag on finished jewelry.

925 Sterling Silver
The level of purity that is recognized as standard in the jewelry trade.  It is an alloy composed of 925 parts of silver and 75 parts by weight of other metals, usually copper, to give needed strength.  Higher quality production typically is hallmarked with "925" or "sterling" along with the "makers mark".

Tarnish Resistant Silver
There are a number of new metal formulations that are now (or soon to be) on the market that are tarnish resistant.  The basic idea is to prevent the copper used to strengthen silver from oxidizing by using other metals to form the alloy.  Argentium Silver ® is a brand name for a high quality sterling silver that has some of it's copper replaced by germanium.  This reduces firescale in casting & soldering plus gives greater tarnish resistance.  Besides the higher cost most products will have some trade-offs, strength & work ability will be affected.  Another major concern is the use of toxic metals like cadmium which have been found in some products being sold as tarnish resistant.  It is best to purchase such metals from major suppliers that can guarantee their products.

Silver Filled
This is a new product that makes a lot of sense with today's current silver costs.  A few issues have come to light that you should be aware of.  There is no uniform standard with this product and you can find a wide range of thicknesses being offered.  We have also been told that metal quality can range from high to junk.  Major suppliers should state where the product was manufactured.  USA, Turkey & Italy have been noted for high quality and Indonesia is reported to be coming up fast.  Far east countries have had major issues with low quality (even toxic) production and should be avoided unless purchased from major suppliers who do their own in house testing. 

Bali Silver
Bali is noted for it wire and granulation style of silversmithing.  Handmade jewelry components (beads, clasps headpins, earwires, etc.) are "built" by applied wire accents and small balls of silver  to the surface with a natural glue mixed with silver.  The bead is then carefully heated to solder the many tiny detail parts to the surface.  Since this is a highly skilled art that rarely produces a perfect piece (the balls tend to move) each is a one of a kind piece.  You may also find that a ball or two will become separated from the piece with use.

"Bali style silver" is very common as it is typically cast in India or China.  Most can be recognized by there perfect details.

Chinese Silver
China has become the major producer of silver beads & findings.  Most of the major US findings manufactures have moved the majority of their production to china along with thousands of our jobs.  Much of the production is for US findings companies who regularly inspect shipments for quality and test the metal for purity.  Unfortunately we have also seen items from our suppliers that did not meet stated qualities when sent to labs for analysis.  We have also been offered sterling silver items priced less than the value of the stated metal content.  Buyer beware.

India Silver
India has long traditions of handcrafted silver but in the past decade or so has opened its borders to the import of modern production equipment.  The quality of sterling silver has always been uniform and quality control of manufacture has seen major improvements.  Most handcrafted findings tend to vary in size and shape to a slight degree.  India is the worlds largest supplier of handcrafted jewelry & findings and is second to China in production of manufactured items.  We are now starting to see more advanced production techniques being used with increased quality control.
Israeli Silver
Long traditions in the jewelry trade combined with modern production techniques have made Israel a world leader in the production of fine quality cast jewelry.

Italian Silver
Italy is perhaps best known for its fine gold chains but it is also the jewelry design center of Europe.  A long history of silver & goldsmiths combined with the production of precision jewelry manufacturing machines has made it the worlds leader in the manufacture of quality chain.  This high quality is maintained in the production of fine sterling silver chains.

Mexican Silver
The silversmiths of Taxco are world famous and the town is located above many of its historic silver mines.  The Mexican government is very protective of its silversmiths and enforces strict rules on quality of silver and requires "925" hallmarks on all production.  The silversmiths are family operations with members doing different parts of the assembly operations.  It is common for US lapidary cutters to send stones to Taxco to be set in silver jewelry forms.  This jewelry can often be identified by the heavy use of silver surrounding the stones.
Nickel Silver
Nickel Silver aka German Silver, New Silver, is a metal alloy of copper and nickel that typically contains zinc. It does not contain any silver.  First produced in China it was perfected in Germany in the early 1800's to achieve a visual similarity to silver.

Thai Hill Tribe Silver
Thai Hill Tribe Silver is 95-99% pure silver.  This soft metal is formed into designs by hammering.  The tribes located in the hill country of Northern Thailand have produced beautiful handcrafted fine jewelry for centuries.

Tibetan Silver
Wikipedia states: Tibet silver used to have a higher silver content a decade or two ago, up to 30% or higher, but cheaper reproductions from Far Eastern factories have diluted the term. Currently, jewellery, beads and castings described as 'Tibetan Silver' tends to be a base iron 'cheese metal' casting, overlaid with this pewter and silver plating.

Turkish Silver
Turkish silver is an alloy of 925 sterling silver that contains cadmium.  Cadmium gives the beads a more shiny appearance and makes them more tarnish resistant.  Cadmium forms toxic fumes when heated so you should not solder to these beads.  Cadmium is used for refrigerator shelves because of its corrosion resistance.