Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver Jewelry

Thanks to their added chromium properties, stainless steel doesn’t tarnish. The resulting product is a little duller than sterling silver. Meanwhile, sterling silver is more lustrous and lighter than stainless steel. However, that light weightiness comes at a cost. 

When it comes to jewelry, many people are drawn to the bright shine of sterling silver. However, sterling silver is not the only metal option out there. Stainless steel is another popular choice for jewelry, especially for those looking for something more durable.  

Even though these two metals look the same, their material foundations are different, affecting their longevity, care, and stunning luster.

So, which is the better option? Here is a comparison of stainless steel vs. sterling silver jewelry to help you decide.

stainless steel vs. sterling silver

What is the origin of stainless steel vs. sterling silver? 

Sterling silver

Sterling silver is a precious metal used to make fine jewelry. Most people get confused about pure silver or sterling silver, but there is a difference.

You see, sterling silver has 92.5% pure silver, meaning it is real silver.

The rest of the percentage is an alloy—a mixture of metals utilized with precious metals to boost its durability. That’s also why we have 18K gold and 14K gold jewelry than 24K pure gold.

Such precious metals are incredibly soft to use as jewelry by themselves. They will last long for a little while if you are careful. Still, the alloy is what makes it significant enough for regular wear.

You can find various qualities of sterling silver. Genuine sterling silver is often considered okay for those with a metal allergy to nickel. However, many individuals with metal allergies are sensitive to copper or nickel.

Stainless steel 

Many people know that stainless steel is the metal for utensils and kitchen appliances. From pots to sinks and pans, stainless steel is quite common. It might shock you that it was found more than 100 years ago.

Stainless steel is a metal iron of iron with 12.8% of chromium content—the element that keeps it from rusting.

What makes stainless steel and sterling silver different in appearance?

Sterling silver Appearance

Many people are attracted to the shiny look of a sterling silver piece of jewelry. The vibrant and bright white metal is preferred to yellow gold rings. Many people also get confused between white gold and sterling silver.

These individuals say they love silver better than gold, but gold offers a similar silverly look because of rhodium that should be replated over time.

One of the disadvantages of sterling silver is that it needs upkeep to keep its shiny silver appearance. It will lose its shine and start to tarnish or oxidize over time. It looks dark gray, dirty, and dull when sterling silver tarnishes.

Other jewelers utilize that as an effect in pure silver jewelry to offer it that vintage or retro look. Luckily, tarnish is the only temporary thing and could be fixed with a silver polishing cloth. They are cheap too, costing less than $15.

Stainless steel Appearance

Stainless steel jewelry might be marked as SS, but it’s necessary, like sterling silver. Surgical steels could be abbreviated or stamped as 316L.

One of the drawbacks of stainless steel jewelry is that you cannot be certain it is grade. Cheap stainless steel jewelry on Amazon and Etsy is low quality. You will also find reviews of people complaining they experienced rashes from stainless steel rings, which were said to be hypoallergenic.

There is no accountability on those sites. No one’s making sure it is quality. They are mass-produced for an affordable price. It can be challenging to sort out the high-quality pieces from the lesser ones.

Inlay rings are one of the most common styles of stainless steel wedding rings. That is where the steel shows on the ring’s inside and edges. Then, in the middle, there’s a strip of another material that goes all the way around.

Like sterling silver, stainless steel does not keep its shiny look. It cannot get back once it is gone, either. The tarnish could be managed and polished out.

What’s the value of stainless steel vs. sterling silver?

Value of Sterling silver

Sterling silver is a precious metal, while stainless steel is not. Precious metals often cost more than alternative metals. Nonetheless, several differences could tip the scale either way.

The major factor in the cost of such two metals will be where you buy them from. Are you looking on Amazon or Etsy? You will find a suite of various mix of prices. Sterling silver engagement rings might be as low as $20. Stainless steel rings could be as low as $10.

Sterling silver jewelry without stones may go as high as $300, but stainless steel without stones might go as high as $150.

If you visit a fine jewelry store, sterling silver jewelry with natural diamonds will cost more than a stainless steel ring and a carbon fiber inlay.  

On top of that, vermeil jewelry could cost a lot more than stainless steel. Sterling silver is the base metal, along with yellow gold plating.

It would help if you kept in mind that the price tag is not everything when we talk about buying jewelry. The entire value of the piece is just as crucial. It’s simple to change a less costly piece of jewelry than the one you spend a lot of money on.

Value of Stainless steel

Stainless steel is shiny, but it was challenging to work on. You cannot size the metal. Are you someone whose fingers shrink in various seasons? That could not be easy. Imagine not being able to wear your ring for the entire season.

Fortunately, it can be sized with sterling silver and other precious metals. Of course, you do not like to size every time, but there are other methods jewelers can do.

Stainless steel wedding bands with diamonds and gemstones can look amazing, but they are not practical. If you knock a stone loose, it cannot be replaced. So in the end, you will need a new ring.

That’s why most jewelry stores provide one replacement warranty for stainless steel. Other precious metals could get a lifetime warranty, but not stainless steel. That’s because it’s not a malleable metal.

Also, it does not have a high scratch resistance, meaning it does not last quite long. Most people report the inlay in inlay rings being scratched or the sealing. You see, stainless steel is not made to last for years. You have to take clean you stainless still jewelry in regular basis for better longevity.

Is stainless steel more expensive than silver? 

Remember that silver is a type of precious metal like palladium, platinum, and gold. It has been utilized as money for many centuries.

Even today, other central banks hold it as bullion reserves. Neither iron nor steel is precious. Therefore, you can expect stainless steel jewelry to be cheaper.


A big part of your decision between stainless steel vs. sterling silver will depend on the look and color you’re trying to accomplish.

Do you like a more stern look, a mirror type of finish, or a hardened type of jewelry to compliment your fashion choice? Stainless steel jewelry is best for you.

That way, you’ll enjoy far less maintenance, not to mention you can keep it for years without tarnish accumulating.

Both of these metals provide high corrosion resistance and durability. If you like a ring made of precious metals, sterling silver takes the upper hand. They are also a third lighter, making them simple to carry.

Both metals are hypoallergenic as long as they are free of nickel. The effort of caring you provide to your 925 silver pieces will certainly reward you back with a shiny shine. Otherwise, tarnish will rule over their shimmering finishes.  

Remember that the better you take good care of your jewelry, the better it will take care of you.

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