All sterling silver oxidizes (tarnishes) over time. But, if the components of a pendant, for example, are joined with Easy instead of Hard Solder, the soldered area may discolor more rapidly. Silversmiths have three choices when silver soldering jewelry.
In all three cases the jewelry will look the same initially. The three choices are:
- Easy Solder which melts at 1325F
- Medium Solder– 1390F
- Hard Solder– 1425F
Since sterling silver will melt at 1640F, it’s “easier” to join components without distorting the sterling silver or melting other soldered joints with Easy Solder because it melts 315 degrees below the sterling silver. The margin of error with Hard Solder is only 215 degrees. The problem is that Easy and Medium Solder contain more copper and zinc but less silver than Hard Solder. Consequently, softer solders:
- have less strength
- discolors more rapidly due to dissimilar metal corrosion
- makes jewelry almost impossible to repair if needed
The bottom line is that it’s higher quality jewelry if the silversmith uses Hard Solder. Before you buy sterling jewelry or commission a custom piece, ask your jeweler or silversmith if their sterling silver jewelry is made using hard solder.
This may explain why your jewelry discolors in the soldered areas and maybe it will help you avoid the problem in the future. More jewelry making tips are coming!