Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver: Which is Better?

Comparing stainless steel vs. sterling silver can be a difficult task, since they are two metals that appear similar in terms of brightness and color, but hide some differences. Although it is worth saying that both are perfect materials to add glamor and style to our look, since we do not have to invest too much money in jewelry made with them. But, how can we compare these two metals and know which of the two is the best option? Well, we invite you to continue reading and discover it below.

Image by Johan Vermeulen from Pixabay

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver: Composition

Stainless steel refers to a range of iron-based alloys. It is not a raw metal and is not found in nature, but is only made by mixing various metals, usually made from iron and carbon along with other metals such as nickel, silicon, manganese, and carbon. Because there are so many types of stainless steel, the variety used to make your cookware, for example, is different from the variety used in your jewelry.

Sterling silver (also known as 925 silver) is made by mixing 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% copper, nickel, or zinc. The metal must be stamped with a sterling silver hallmark, which includes .925, 925, STERLING, or 925/1000 notation.

Bottom line: while stainless steel is made entirely from industrial metals, sterling silver contains over 90% silver, which is a precious metal.

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver: Durability

Stainless steel is one of the most durable metals out there. It is highly resistant to scratches and wear that occurs with daily use. It has a hardness of about 5.5 Mohs. It is perfect for someone with an active lifestyle as there is no need to remove the ring every time you engage in vigorous activity. Stainless steel also has a wide range of industrial and technological applications.

However, this hardness also has a disadvantage. Makes it difficult to mold stainless steel jewelry into intricate designs. This is why elegant and delicate jewelry can be made with sterling silver, but not usually with stainless steel.

Sterling silver is a much softer metal than stainless steel, but is still very durable. Much harder than pure silver, sterling silver can last a lifetime with proper care. It does not bend or damage easily, however it does scratch and tarnish (more on this below) and will require more regular maintenance than stainless steel.

Bottom line: Stainless steel is harder than sterling silver and doesn’t scratch as much, but sterling silver is more workable and can be shaped into delicate designs.

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver: Luster

Both stainless steel and sterling silver have a similar shine and are highly reflective and shiny. They can be difficult to tell apart from more expensive white metals.

Rings made from these two metals can be crafted in a variety of finishes, including hammered, matte, brushed, polished, and satin.

Bottom line: Both stainless steel and sterling silver have a similar sheen: reflective and shiny like white gold.

Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver: Tarnish

Stainless steel does not tarnish or corrode easily. It is highly resistant to tarnishing and scratching, making it easy to maintain its shine and beauty.

Sterling silver, on the other hand, does not age well. The copper content in the alloy makes it prone to tarnishing, which reduces its brightness and dulls it quickly. Tarnishing can be easily removed but requires some maintenance commitment. This is the one thing that tends to put many people off sterling silver.

Bottom line: Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, which dulls its shine, while stainless steel stays shiny longer.

Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver: Hypoallergenic

Neither stainless steel nor sterling silver are always hypoallergenic, meaning they can cause allergic reactions in people who have metal sensitivities and allergies.

This is due to metals like nickel, which are normally found in these alloys. If there is no nickel, then the alloy can be considered safe.

It’s always good to ask the retailer if the metal contains nickel to make sure it’s safe to use, especially if you’re prone to allergic reactions.

Bottom line: Stainless steel and sterling silver are more likely to be non-hypoallergenic, due to possible nickel in the alloys.

Stainless Steel vs. Sterling Silver: Price

Stainless steel is much more affordable than sterling silver, because it is made entirely from industrial metals. Sterling silver, on the other hand, contains silver which is considered a precious metal. As such, sterling silver carries more value and prestige than stainless steel.

In terms of price, you can find a good quality stainless steel ring for around $20 or more, like this wedding ring, while sterling silver wedding rings would average around $100, like this ring.

Bottom line: Sterling silver has more value and prestige than stainless steel.

Sterling Silver Vs Stainless Steel: Summary of the Pros and Cons

Sterling silver

Choose sterling silver if you want a valuable and prestigious metal. But you will need to take time to periodically clean the ring and remove its tarnish if you want to keep its shine.


  • Sterling silver is a precious metal that has prestige and value.
  • It is easy to turn sterling silver into elegant and delicate designs due to its moldable nature.
  • It is easy to repair and resize as sterling silver is not too difficult.
  • Sterling silver is affordable compared to other precious metals.
  • For those who love an antique look, sterling silver tarnish offers a beautiful oxidized finish.


  • Sterling silver requires regular maintenance as it tarnishes easily.
  • It is a soft metal and gets scratches and dents over time.
  • It is more expensive than stainless steel.

Stainless steel

Choose stainless steel if you’re looking for a shiny, inexpensive metal that requires minimal maintenance. Their appearance will make it very difficult to tell them apart from more expensive metals, so you can buy a cheap ring or piece of jewelry that still looks great.


  • Stainless steel is extremely hard and resistant to scratches and damage.
  • It is a very affordable metal for jewelry.
  • The shine of stainless steel is similar to that of more expensive white metals.
  • It is easy to maintain as it does not scratch easily.
  • Stainless steel does not tarnish.


  • Its hardness can make stainless steel difficult for jewelers to work with. Resizing, repairing, and molding into elegant designs can be difficult.
  • Stainless steel is not valuable or prestigious, as it is made entirely of industrial metals.
  • There are limited styles of stainless steel jewelry because it is not malleable.

As the discussion above indicates, both stainless steel and sterling silver have their pros and cons. One thing to keep in mind is, if you are looking for wedding or engagement rings made from any of these metals, you will not find them on sites dedicated to precious metals and gemstones.