Let’s say that in your hunting for valuable items made of precious metals, you come across something made of “Argentium.” It could be a bracelet or other piece of jewelry in its original box with paperwork that says it’s made of Argentium. Or maybe a salesman at a jewelry store or estate sale winks at you and says, “This piece is extra valuable because it’s better than sterling... it’s Argentium!” It’s bright and white and shiny like silver... but what is it?
It all sounds mysterious. Is Argentium really an extra-special kind of silver that you should be eager to buy? Here’s what you need to know.
Where Did Argentium Come from?
Argentium is actually an alloy of silver and germanium that was invented in 1990 by a London silversmith named Peter Johns. To create a superior kind of sterling that was more resistant to wear and tarnishing, he replaced the copper that is part of sterling silver with germanium. Argentium was born.
What Makes Argentium Different?
Argentium alloy is typically made up of 92.5% silver and 7.5% germanium; sterling silver, in contrast, contains 93.5% silver and 6.5% copper. Note that those percentages are not universally observed; silversmiths can tinker with the metals they are mixing into their workable metals pretty much as they see fit.
What Is Germanium?
Germanium was discovered, not invented by anyone. It’s a pure element with symbol Ge and an atomic number of 32 – because it’s an element, it’s the real McCoy.
Why Is Argentium Worth More than Sterling Silver?
Argentium is worth more per weight unit because it contains germanium, not copper. Germanium is currently trading at a price of about $1,800 per kilogram, which translates to $1.80 per gram. In contrast, copper is currently selling for only about $0.0046 per gram. Right off the bat, that means that Argentium, which contains 7.5% germanium, is worth more than sterling, which contains 6.5% copper.
But other factors come into play too. One is that items made of Argentium are often made by luxury manufacturers. A high-end Argentium watch made by Bell & Ross, for example, is worth a lot more than your average Timex, simply because it is a luxury timepiece. Similarly, Argentium tableware made by Eternal Silver London is worth more than most sets of sterling flatware, because it is made by a prestigious manufacturer. So two factors impact the value of an item made of Argentium: Its metallic value and its collectible value.
What Items Are Mostly Likely to be Made of Argentium?
In general, they are many silver items that benefit from the additional resistance to wear and tarnish that Argentium provides. You will hardly ever find a sterling silver watch, for example, because silver wears and scratches quite easily. But you will find watches with Argentium cases. Also, you could come across some very beautiful rings and necklaces made of the alloy.
A similar principle is at work with tableware. Will you find a lot of sterling silver tableware, even though it tarnishes quickly? Of course. But you will also find Argentium tableware, which is as beautiful as sterling silver, only more durable and tarnish-resistant.
Is All Argentium Stamped as Such?
Argentium is a registered trademark of Argentium International Limited. Items manufactured or approved by this company are stamped with a mark that shows a winged unicorn and the words, “Made in Argentium Silver.”
But here things get complicated, because there is nothing to stop a silversmith from mixing up an alloy that contains silver and germanium and then making jewelry or other items from it. Are those items then “official Argentium?” No, they are not. But in metallic content, they could be just the same.
Are Your Argentium Items Worth Recycling?
In many cases, yes. Call our qualified precious metals recycling consultants at 800-426-2344, describe what you have, and send your items to us for testing. We are here to help you turn mysterious Argentum into dollars.
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