Though Hill tribe silver and sterling silver may seem the same at first glance, they actually have some major differences:
1) Unlike sterling silver, which is typically 92.5% pure in silver with the rest being copper or another metal, Hill tribe silver is 98% to 99% pure.
2) Sterling silver is factory or machine made, as the structure is too strong to be crafted by hand.
3) Hill tribe silver is crafted using only hand tools.
4) Hill tribe silver is made using techniques that have been passed down through families for generations in South East Asia.
5) Hill tribe silver is created using sustainable methods due to the hand tools, Sterling silver is made using machinery.
6) Hill tribe silver can easily be melted and remolded into a completely different design due to its high silver properties, without having to add any additional metals.
7) Sterling silver can also be remolded, but it’s not advisable because additional new metal would have to be added to, which would further reduce the silver purity.
8) As hill tribe silver ages, rather than creating the regular brown tarnish rusting effect, it becomes a vintage-looking dull grey, which can easily be polished with baking soda, water and aluminum foil (link to how to polish silver page).
9) Sterling silver tarnishing creates more of a green-brown-grey colour, and it’s more difficult than Karen Hill tribe silver to polish.
10) Sterling silver is technically stronger than Hill tribe silver, however because Karen hill tribe silver is somewhat malleable, it can be bent without breaking the actual jewellery. Sterling silver, on the other hand, if bent it can cause the piece to break.
So there you have it, 10 major differences between sterling silver and Hill tribe silver! Now you can decide which type of silver you think suits you best.