British experts have pioneered the world’s first non-tarnishing sterling silver in a breakthrough that could revolutionise the silver industry.
Researchers in Sheffield, the city famous for stainless steel, have developed a ‘stainless silver’ alloy that resists the discolouring effect of pollutants and retains its bright finish.
The groundbreaking alloy, developed by researchers from Sheffield Hallam University’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) and leading UK silverware brand Carrs of Sheffield, could boost the global market for silver, often dismissed as the ‘poor man’s gold.’
The new product outshines standard sterling silver by keeping its shine and colour intact, putting an end to regular polishing and high care costs. Marketed as Carrs Lustre Silver, makers hope it will change the public’s perception of traditionally high-maintenance silverware.
Dr Hywel Jones from MERI said:
“The biggest problem with silver as a precious metal is that it tarnishes with time. The yellowing or blackening of the metal means that traditional silver items like cutlery are increasingly unattractive for the modern market, because they need a lot of upkeep.”
“The new alloy has exceeded all our expectations and is a development of great significance. Silver has been used by man for 5000 years and this is one of the most important developments in that time.
"It has potential to be exploited in areas other than silverware, for example in electrical connectors, a huge market in today's world of computers and electronic control systems"
Independent tests at the Sheffield Assay Office and the Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association (CATRA) have proven its resistance to tarnishing, which occurs when silver reacts with sulphur containing substances in the air, forming a silver sulphide film that blackens the surface of the metal.
Dr Jones said:
“Previous attempts to produce a ‘stainless’ silver by adding germanium for example have resulted in alloys that were difficult to manufacture. Not only does our alloy resist tarnishing, but it can be cast, rolled, worked by silversmiths, soldered, heat-treated and polished without any of the problems that can arise when you change the chemistry and mechanical properties of an existing alloy. It’s also resistant to fire-staining, which makes the production process more efficient.
“The ‘stainless’ silver finished product requires no polish; just a simple wipe with a cloth restores its original finish, meaning that it’s as good as gold in terms of being tarnish-proof.”
Carrs Silver founder Ron Carr added:
“We recognised the need for a new sterling silver for a new generation, because customers want products that stay looking beautiful with the minimum of effort.”
Lustre Silver has been developed over four years as part of a €2.2m European-funded research project. Manufactured exclusively by Carrs of Sheffield, it will be officially launched at the Spring Fair, Birmingham NEC (5-9 February, 2006), along with a new Lustre range that includes iPod nano holders, business card holders, passport covers and cutlery.