Sterling silver. No more tarnish. No more buying special polishing cloths to clean with. No more blackened fingers. Can you imagine? It can be true with Argentium Sterling Silver as it is highly tarnish-resistant. How? Well, "regular" sterling silver is 92.5% silver with copper as the additional 7.5% alloy. With Argentium silver, part of the copper is replaced with germanium. Voila!
In my newer jewelry pieces you will find Argentium Sterling silver. I think it's worth the slight extra cost. The piece in my previous post and this one are both made with Argentium. Especially where I use wire that is hard to access and polish, I think it's important.
For further information, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentium_sterling_silver and http://argentiumsilver.com/ .
Fine Silver: 99.9% Silver. Will tarnish, but more slowly. Not very hard, so not good for earwires.
Argentium Sterling Silver. 92/5% Silver, with 7.5% alloy and a touch of germanium to make it tarnish resistant.
Sterling Silver: 92/5% Silver, with 7.5% alloy. Alloy is typically copper and is added for strength, but is also what causes it to tarnish more quickly.
Silver filled: Has 100x more silver than silver plated. There are currently no laws governing what this means, so it can differ by manufacturer. Gold-filled does have rules regarding it, though. Filled should mean that it is not likely to chip or wear off. Can be a good alternative to the cost of solid sterling and a higher quality choice than plated.
Silver plated: Typically copper or brass, with a coating of silver. (Not sterling silver.) Cheaper alternative, but can wear or chip off.
Silver toned: Has no silver in it at all. Cheapest choice. Could be any kind of silver metal.
As you go up the list above, the likelihood for having an allergic reaction to the metal decreases.
I typically use Argentium, Solid Sterling Silver, Fine Silver and sometimes Silver Plated. I always specify.