Sterling Silver vs. Stainless Steel Jewelry

Sterling Silver vs. Stainless Steel Jewelry

Silver-toned jewelry! 2022 trends indicate that silver colored metals are coming back in style but which type of silver-toned jewelry is right for you? Sterling silver or stainless steel? You might be wondering what the differences are and which type of metal is better for you. 

The most common questions center around...

‣ Is stainless steel hypoallergenic?
‣ What is sterling silver made of? What is stainless steel made of?
‣ Is stainless steel waterproof?

    Let’s go through these questions.

    What does hypoallergenic mean?





    Hypoallergenic simply means that something is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. The general rule is that less than 10% of the material contains an allergenic material. So jewelry that contains less than 10% of a reactive metal, like nickel and copper, is considered hypoallergenic. Both sterling silver and 304 stainless steel are considered hypoallergenic.

    Break it Down - Metal Alloys

    Sterling silver and stainless steel are both metal alloys which means that they are made from a mixture of different metals.

    Sterling Silver is most commonly made with 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Because the presence of copper is below 10%, sterling silver is considered a hypoallergenic metal and non-reactive to most people with sensitive skin.


    Stainless steel on the other hand, has a more complex mix and can come in various types. The two most common types found in high quality jewelry are 304 and 316L. (A quick way to tell if your stainless steel jewelry is not made with these types of stainless steels is if they are magnetic)

    These stainless steels are made with a combination of chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and a mix of iron, manganese, phosphorus, and nitrogen. This combination of metals makes stainless steel harder, more durable, and resistant to corrosion.


    As you can see, the biggest difference between these two types are the amounts of nickel and the presence of Molybdenum, which make it even more corrosion resistant. Though these metals have nickel in its chemical composition, these metals typically do not release enough nickel to cause nickel dermatitis, even in nickel-sensitive people.


    Haudrechy, P., Mantout, B., Frappaz, A., Rousseau, D., Chabeau, G., Faure, M., & Claudy, A. (1997). Nickel release from stainless steels. Contact dermatitis, 37(3), 113–117.

    Still, those with known nickel allergies might try 304 stainless steel pieces. Of the two, 304 has a much lower nickel content and is even less likely to cause a reaction. 

    STUDIYO Jewelry uses 304 stainless steel for the majority of our stainless steel designs. Earrings that are made from one sheet of metal like the Catena Earrings and Neutra Minis are made entirely of 304 stainless steel. Some attached parts like earring posts and chains, are made of 316L stainless steel and are indicated in the product descriptions.

    How these metals react to your surroundings

    What happens when sterling silver and stainless steel come in contact with oxygen and water?

    A chemical reaction occurs when both sterling silver and stainless steel come in contact with oxygen. In the case of sterling silver, oxidation occurs and a visible barrier of rust starts to form to protect the metal from further corrosion. Stainless steel on the other hand reacts with an invisible barrier that protects the metal from corrosion. This is because of the chromium and molybdenum present in the metal and is why sterling silver tarnishes easily and stainless steel does not.

    Moisture in the air can also speed up the rate of tarnish on sterling silver whereas it can have little to no effect on stainless steel.

    Sterling Silver Pros and Cons

    Pros of Sterling Silver

    Precious metal that is more affordable than gold or platinum
    Malleable and easy to work with
    Generally considered hypoallergenic

      Cons of Sterling Silver

      Tarnishes easily
      Darkens more quickly when it comes into contact with water
      Contains small amounts of copper which can cause an allergic reaction if you are hyper-sensitive
      Softer metal that scratches and bends more easily
      Tends to cost more

        Stainless Steel Pros and Cons

        Pros of Stainless Steel
        ○ Tarnish resistant
        ○ Does not react to water and moisture
        ○ Harder and more durable metal
        ○ High quality 304 and 316 stainless steel is considered hypoallergenic
        ○ Highly recycled metal 

          Cons of Stainless Steel

          Contains a small amount of nickel (304 has lower nickel content than 316) and can cause an allergic reaction if you are hyper-sensitive
          Harder and more difficult to work with


            Everyone has different skin and different needs, so you be the judge for your personal preference; but for long lasting, low maintenance, silver colored jewelry, stainless steel in my opinion, is the clear winner. No shade on sterling silver, as both metals are equally beautiful, but, as a low maintenance type of girl, I would much prefer opening my jewelry boxes to find fresh, clean jewelry every time and not have to worry about tarnish.




            For more benefits of stainless steel jewelry, read the 7 Surprising Facts About Stainless Steel Jewelry

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            Girls Garage x STUDIYO Jewelry

            This Saturday, I am releasing an all new charm necklace! It is my very first collaboration and it's with Girls Garage, an organization that I have been donating to since the end of 2020.

            Girls Garage is a women-led organization that offers free and low-cost programs in carpentry, welding, architecture, engineering, and activist art to a diverse community of girls and gender-expansive youth. They provide a supportive and safe environment for girls as well as career and academic advising! 82% of teen girls and gender-expansive youth identify as girls of color and all teen participants attend the program at no cost to their families.

            There is nothing more empowering and inspiring to me than an independent woman. I was raised by a single mom, and she has been an amazing role model, showing me first hand the ability and strength of women. Then in college, I was lucky enough to live with 4 fiercely independent women, all in architecture school, who taught me how to think and fend for myself, problem solve, and that everything is often figure-out-able if you try. I remember once the door frame to my room in our house warped due to the heat and my door became jammed, trapping me in my room. Instead of calling the landlord or a handyman as I panicked, they calmly handed me tools through my window and talked me through how to take the door hinge pins out and simply remove the door.

            This can-do attitude and willingness to research allowed me to do things like order, replace, and install the side mirror on my car by myself after a drunk biker had smashed into it. It may seem small, but not only did it save me a lot of money, I also felt so damn accomplished afterward.

            The design of this necklace includes 5 charms that represent typical tools that Girls Garage teaches their girls to use. For me, the necklace also represents how I got started making things and tools that I first learned how to use. Every time you learn how to use a new tool, it opens your eyes to a world of possibilities and new ideas. It’s so empowering.


            All 5 tools are basic yet powerful tools that are the foundation of many projects. Each charm was drawn digitally, then carefully cut out of paper to create prototypes. Together with Girls Garage, we went back and forth to decide scale, length, and tools, and after a few iterations, landed on this intricate design. Every charm is made of thin stainless steel with tool details etched into the face.

            With this limited edition collaboration, 20% of every necklace sold will be donated directly to Girls Garage to support their mission of providing more guidance and technical skills for girls to create a real impact in their communities and build the world they want to see.

            The 2022 TOOLS CHARM NECKLACE is available now!

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            7 Surprising Facts About Stainless Steel Jewelry

            7 Surprising Facts About Stainless Steel Jewelry

            Have you recently heard about stainless steel jewelry and want to know more about this relatively new jewelry material? You’ve come to the right place! Here are 7 surprising facts about stainless steel jewelry that you might not know about!


            Yes! Finally jewelry that is super low maintenance. Accidentally wear it in the shower? No problem. Leave your earrings out on a damp bathroom counter? No problem! Stainless steel is inherently rust and tarnish proof. The presence of chromium in its chemical composition creates a barrier that prevents tarnish from building up, making it super easy to care for.


            This is one that seems to be up for debate on the internet so let’s clear it up. First, hypoallergenic is defined as jewelry that contains little to no potentially irritating alloys. Typically, the threshold is that if the offending alloy is present but less than 10%, it will not bother the wearer. This usually refers to nickel as this is the most common metal allergy.

            Now, why do some people say stainless steel is hypoallergenic while others say it absolutely is not? There are two common alloys of stainless steel used in jewelry!

            304 STAINLESS STEEL is categorized as a hypoallergenic metal. It is made of 18-20% chromium, 8-10% nickel, and iron alloys. Nickel allergies are the most common in earring wearers, yet because stainless steel contains less than 10% of nickel in it's composition, it is considered hypoallergenic and a very safe option.

            316L STAINLESS STEEL which is ironically nicknamed "surgical steel", contains 10-14% nickel to increase it's corrosion resistance. Unfortunately surgical steel may cause irritation in wearers with nickel allergies because the presence of nickel tends to be higher than 10%.

            STUDIYO Jewelry uses 304 stainless steel for all our stainless steel jewelry. I have found over the years that I personally may be slightly allergic to copper which is found in 14kt gold, 14kt rose gold, and in ultra low quantities, in sterling silver mixtures. Wearing high quality 304 stainless steel earrings have made my ears feel so much better. It’s worth a try!


            Stainless steel can be infinitely recyclable! This means that it can be extracted and reformed without losing its physical and chemical properties and is currently recycled more than glass and paper. Most stainless steel objects made today have at least 60% recycled steel in it. The sheet metal that we use always has 65-75% recycled content in it and 100% of the scrap sheet metal used to create my pieces are recycled as scrap metal to be melted and reformed into something new!


            Stainless steel is an alloy that blends chromium, titanium, and nickel.  Because of this, stainless steel is durable which is why we often use it in manufacturing and for kitchen utensils.

            On the Mohs scale of hardness, it has a hardness of 4, compared to sterling silver and gold, which both have a hardness of about 2-2.5. Because it is stronger, we can create more delicate and detailed designs that would easily warp and break if made of brass, silver, or gold.


            This is an interesting one that you might not know. Traditionally, jewelry is made and reproduced through casting melted metal. Did you know, that it is extremely rare and virtually impossible to find a jeweler in the United States willing to work with stainless steel? Believe me, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole. The reason I've learned, is that stainless steel has a much higher melting temperature than other metals typically found in jewelry like sterling silver, brass, and gold. This renders the casting process of stainless steel to be pretty dangerous. Large scale manufacturers that are willing to work with stainless steel are more often found in different countries abroad, like China. Many of the companies you see selling stainless steel jewelry in the United States these days, very likely manufacture abroad. They can sell them at lower prices because they mass produce such large quantities allowing them to make them for cheaper.

            Not wanting to create a large carbon footprint by mass producing and shipping overseas, I chose to make STUDIYO Jewelry's stainless steel jewelry by cutting flat pieces of metal. Stainless steel sheet metal is a very common material used in residential and commercial construction so sourcing the material in the US was a lot more abundant and made a whole lot more sense for a small US-based business than sourcing from a different country. I love this medium because it can be very similar to paper cutting, which is something very familiar to me from years of making paper models for architecture school. I love the idea of transforming something so industrial into something delicate and personal.


            There aren’t a ton of options for stainless steel jewelry...yet. Stainless steel jewelry is still considered relatively new on the market. It’s gained popularity in the last few years but prior to that, the jewelry that was on the market was designed primarily for men. Of the most common were stainless steel wedding bands and stainless steel bracelets. There currently are not as many varieties of options for stainless steel jewelry (that are not mass produced) for women out there, but lucky for you, STUDIYO Jewelry just came out with a new collection of earrings for you to choose from!


            Last but not least, you can wear stainless steel jewelry to virtually any occasion. In it’s non plated state it has the appearance of silver and when plated, the appearance of gold. You can wear it every day, dress it up or down, and wear it with countless outfits!

            If you are looking for new stainless steel jewelry, check out the Luminaire II Collection or the Tracery Collection!

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