Stainless steel may not be the first thing you think of when looking for jewelry metal, but there it is, in the window shop. In the past few decades there has been more and more fine jewelry made of stainless steel than ever. Still, you can’t help but wonder if it’s really a good idea to use stainless steel for jewelry. Does it scratch ? How does it look in time ? Can you wear it to the pool ? Does it look good ?
Given how common this metal is in jewelry, let’s take a closer look at it, see what it’s really made of. We’ll also guide you through what to know before buying a stainless steel jewelry piece.
Is stainless steel jewelry good ?
Yes, stainless steel is a good option for jewelry as it’s inexpensive, corrosion-free, lightweight, and very durable. There are both delicate and bulky designs, there are pieces with and without gemstones, and this metal is easy to take care of.
Stainless steel works perfectly for wedding bands and jewelry that sees daily wear and tear, due to your work environment or your daily activity.
In terms of color stainless steel tends to come in a very light silvery-gray color. It can be buffed and polished to offer a mirror effect, it can be sanded, hammered, or have any type of texture you like. Steel is also fairly simple to color, so if you’d like blue, black, pink, or gold steel you can easily find such jewelry.
What is stainless steel, really ?
Stainless steel is a type of metal alloy,, made of various metals but there must always be at least 11% chromium to prevent corrosion. The other elements are a varying mix of iron, carbon, aluminum, nitrogen, titanium, copper, molybdenum, selenium, niobium, silicon, and nickel. Because of these differing elements, there are different grades and compositions of stainless steel available on the market.
For jewelry the usual stainless steel is 316L, or A4. This version of stainless steel has iron, more chromium (16-18%) to better prevent oxidation, molybdenum, and a fair amount of nickel (10-12%). Aside from this you can find lower amount of carbon than in other versions, as well as silicon, phosphorous, and sulfur.
Read also: Amethyst Engagement Ring Meaning
Does stainless steel scratch ?
Stainless may be subject to light scratches from other, more durable metals or objects. Thich can accumulate on jewelry. Most of the time the scratches are very light and shallow so they may be buffed out with a soft cloth.
That being said, nearly all jewelry metals will end up with tiny scratches, from daily wear and tear. It’s best to polish your jewelry once a year, regardless of its metal composition.
Does stainless steel jewelry turn your skin green ?
Some stainless steel jewelry may turn your skin green, if it contains copper. Jewelry-grade stainless steel does contain nickel but does not contain copper, so it should not trigger an allergic reaction.
However not all jewelry is made equal, and some stainless steel jewelry may be made of any alloy possible, including one that may have copper.
Are stainless steel piercings safe ?
Yes, stainless steel piercings are perfectly safe, as they are made with 316L steel. This makes them safe for human use, and it’s the same type of steel used to make surgical instruments that come into contact with skin and organs.
Like any piercing, you must take regular care to clean and maintain them. But they should not trigger an allergic reaction or an infection in your flesh.
Can you wear stainless steel in the shower ?
Yes, you can wear stainless steel jewelry in the shower or pool or even seawater if you like. This type of metal alloy was created to withstand many things, including harsh elements like seawater, the sun, rust, or repeated rubbing and scratching.
A good stainless steel piece should not stain or begin to corrode after getting wet.
Can you set gemstones in stainless steel ?
Yes, you can set gemstones in stainless steel but this is a difficult metal to work with. It is very hard to bend and shape, so few jewelers will bother setting stones in stainless steel. When a gemstone is set, the metal around it has to be bent, pushed, beaded, or otherwise manipulated around the gem to keep it in place. Stainless steel is very tough and makes this job difficult.
What you can find is a few stainless steel pieces with a few gems set in a very simple setting (like a prong), or a stainless steel base with a different metal used for the setting, like platinum or white gold. But if you look hard enough you can find stainless steel jewelry with more gems in it, it’s just not that common.
Most stainless steel jewelry does not have gems, but is embellished with carvings or embossing. It may be colored black, blue, gold, or pink with different chemical reactions or electroplating.
What to know before buying stainless steel jewelry
Buying stainless steel jewelry sounds like a lifetime commitment, since you’re buying a very tough and sturdy piece of jewelry that will be your forever. When it comes to wedding bands this can sound incredibly romantic, and it very much is. However there are a few things you should know about stainless steel jewelry before you decide to buy one such piece.
Stainless steel has its pros and cons, and its limitations mean you may have a more limited list of options. Of course, this all depends on what you are looking for. So here are the 5 key facts you should remember when shopping for stainless steel jewelry.
1. Stainless steel is hard to work with, jewelry may be bulky
Stainless steel was created to be tough, sturdy, and withstand nearly anything. This means working this piece of metal into a delicate shape is not exactly easy. There are other metals that are far easier to work with, that can give you a dainty yet sturdy piece of jewelry. Examples include platinum and 14k or 10k gold.
Stainless steel works best in a slightly bulkier form, so a 2 mm band for a stainless steel ring is not easy to come by or work with.
What does this mean ? It means any rings, earrings or necklaces made from stainless steel will look a bit simplistic or bulky, especially to someone who is looking for an extravagant or very flowery piece of jewelry. If you’re actively looking for a sleek, streamlined pieces with a very modern twist, then stainless steel might just be the right metal for you.
2. Some stainless steel versions may contain nickel copper
Keep in mind that not all stainless steel jewelry is made with the appropriate alloy. Stainless steel is a class of alloys based on iron, carbon, and chromium, and the other elements may vary from version to version.
Jewelry-grade stainless steel is actually marine steel (SAE 316L or A4), fit to withstand corrosion and humidity by adding more chromium. It does contain nickel but does not contain copper, so it should not turn your skin green, unless you have a nickel allergy.
However you can easily find stainless steel jewelry made from a different alloy that may contain allergic metals. Always check the metal stamp, or ask your jeweler exactly which kind of stainless steel they have.
3. Stainless steel is affordable, easy to replace
Any stainless steel jewelry piece you decide to buy will not break the bank, unless you’ve also got a few carats of diamonds on it. The metal itself is fairly cheap and most pieces don’t have a gemstone. Or, if they do, it’s likely cubic zirconia in order to keep the price low.
So if you do somehow lose or break your stainless steel jewelry, don’t worry. You’re likely to afford a replacement, as opposed to something made of gold or platinum.
4. Jewelry made from stainless steel is very durable, lightweight
Jewelry in general is meant to be beautiful and embellish something, but it’s never supposed to get in your way when you’re working. So if you’ve got the kind of job or life that requires constant movement, stainless steel jewelry will not stop you.
It is lightweight compared to other precious metals, and it’s very durable, making for a piece of jewelry that will still be with you at the end of the day.
Work with your hands a lot ? A stainless steel ring or bracelet will withstand the constant wear and tear without too many scratches or breaking.
Work in a very hot and humid environment ? This metal won’t corrode or turn your skin green, no matter where or how you wear it.
Simply like to wear a lot of jewelry ? Stainless steel won’t weight you down too much.
5. Stainless steel jewelry is especially popular with men
Preferences are a big thing when it comes to jewelry, since our tastes dictate what we buy. Men in general tend to gravitate towards simpler, bulkier jewelry pieces without too many frills and detailing. So stainless steel jewelry is very likely to display the characteristics they’re looking for in their rings, bracelets, necklaces or earrings.
If you’re in the market for a male wedding band or engagement ring, or would simply like something that looks very streamlined or masculine, stainless steel is a great place to start. Other options may be tungsten carbine and titanium, which are also very sturdy and come in bulkier shapes.
I’m the main author for jewelrymaterialguide.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.