Know Your Silver

November 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Saddle Parts, Saddle Tips

Silver is the metal of tradition and choice for saddle decoration and to draw the judge’s attention to you and your horse in the competition ring. However, just because your saddle has silvery metal on the skirt or horn doesn’t mean that it’s really silver. Before you buy a saddle with “silver,” make sure you know exactly what that “silver” is.

Bill Maloy Saddle (Courtesy of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA))

Saddle Silver usually will be one of the following four types, listed from least costly to most costly:

Silver Plating:  A thin layer of silver is electroplated to a base layer of another metal. This silver layering is inexpensive and looks great when it’s new, but it can wear off with repeated polishing and wear.

German Silver: Widely used in Western tack, it’s actually an alloy of nickel, copper, and sometimes zinc. The benefit? It oxidizes slowly and can stay clean without constant polishing that true silver requires.

San Simeon Silver: Contains 10% sterling silver for shine and durability at a reduced cost.

Sterling Silver: The 92.5 stamp marks the purest silver. It is generally considered to be the top of the line for shine. It’s expensive, and silver costs are rising. Sterling adds value to your saddle, but does require investment and upkeep time.

Saddle silversmiths have always been an integral part of the tradition and art of western craftsmanship including saddle trim, bits, spurs, belt buckles,

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