What is Sterling Silver? The Uses of Sterling Silver in Jewellery.

What is Sterling Silver? The Uses of Sterling Silver in Jewellery.

What is sterling silver? How is it different to pure/fine silver?

Sterling silver is simply an alloyed form of pure silver which is much more suitable to use in jewellery and other metalwork than pure silver. Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. Although very beautiful in this form and experiences minimal tarnish, the metal is generally too soft for use in jewellery.

To combat this, fine silver is alloyed with copper to create sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. The copper makes the silver harder and more durable, making it much better to work with and use. It’s important to note that although sterling silver can be higher than 92.5% silver, it cannot be lower than that percentage. Anything less than that standard isn’t considered sterling silver.

The best indicator to differentiating sterling silver from pure silver is the marking (or hallmark) stamped on in small numbers or letters. Sterling silver will have a 925 or STER, and fine silver will have a 999 or FS.

Most silver jewellery that you can purchase and wear will be sterling silver.


How to tell if sterling silver is genuine

A jewellery piece may have the iconic stamping of '925' but if you want to be extra confident, below are a few methods to help you:

  • Hold a strong magnet to the item. If the magnet sticks to the metal, your jewellery is not real sterling silver as silver is not magnetic
  • Smell the jewellery piece. If the smell is strongly metallic, then your item is not real sterling silver.
  • Analyse the price tag. If the price of jewellery seems too good to be true, it might be and probably is not genuine 925 sterling silver.

If in doubt, take the jewellery to a jewellers, let an expert test it for you.


Is sterling silver good for jewellery?

Sterling silver jewellery is an excellent, high quality choice in most circumstances. The metal will not rust or perish, plus if you look after your jewellery it will look great well into the future. You should even be able to pass your silver jewellery on to future generations.

The softness of even sterling silver can make it unsuited to using with very expensive gemstone settings. Gold or platinum are the metals most often used in this situation as they are harder and the settings are less likely to be damaged.


Why is sterling silver so expensive?

As sterling silver has a higher content of precious metal, it makes it more expensive than silver plated jewellery. Those who buy sterling silver do so because they understand the inherent value, beauty and relative affordability of the metal. While more expensive metals like gold and platinum provide durability and are a good investment as well, sterling silver is the most affordable choice for heirloom quality jewellery that can be passed from one generation to the next.


Does sterling sliver rust?

Sterling silver does not rust. Rust is corrosion that deteriorates and is specific to iron. It’s harmful to some materials, but sterling silver isn’t one of them. Materials which rust are only iron and alloys that contain iron.


Will sterling silver jewellery tarnish?

Can silver jewellery turn black? The answer yes. Tarnish appearing on your silver jewellery is normal. BUT! Don’t worry, it is to be expected and is easy to resolve. Even the best silver jewellery tarnishes, so tarnishing actually indicates your jewellery is really made from silver.

Adding copper to pure silver reinforces the metal but at the same time, this alloy combination causes sterling silver to tarnish easily. Tarnishing is a natural process which is caused by oxygen and moisture coming into contact with the metal. This causes the metal to turn black over time, especially in humid conditions. However, the good news is, it is very easy to clean. This can be done by using a specialised sterling silver cloth and buffing the metal. Beneath the tarnish your sterling silver will still be in great condition: it won't rust or perish with normal use.

Many things in your everyday life can cause your silver to tarnish. These include:

  • Hand creams and soaps
  • Perfume
  • Makeup
  • Chlorine from swimming pools or cleaning chemicals
  • Saltwater
  • The PH of your skin (unfortunately)
  • The surrounding air, especially if it's humid


Can sterling silver be worn everyday?

Absolutely! In reality, wearing sterling silver frequently will help prevent the build-up of tarnish on the metal. Precious metals like silver and gold do best when worn regularly. However, your jewellery will still need frequent cleaning.


How to prevent tarnish on sterling silver

Tarnish on silver is almost impossible to avoid, but actively taking steps can delay the process and slow down the speed of tarnish on your jewellery.

The best way to prevent tarnish is to keep pieces out of flowing air and humid places when not being worn. It is important to keep jewellery out of the bathroom and store in an airtight bag or jewellery box. If you live in a humid place, keeping a humidity absorber near where you store your jewellery can help.

Cleaning your silver jewellery more regularly will also help to keep tarnish at bay. The longer you leave it, the more tarnish it will have and the harder it will be to clean. We provide a jewellery cleaning cloth with each order so you can spot clean your jewellery pieces whenever you need.

Finally, wearing your silver jewellery regularly can help to slow down the process of tarnishing as the metal moving against your skin and itself will help to keep it clean.

However, a very small number of people seem to have something about them which speeds up tarnish a lot when they wear silver jewellery. This could be caused by environmental, chemical or biological factors which can be hard to prevent.


See our handy links to articles with more information about cleaning silver jewellery:

Jewellery Care

Top 10 Tips to Keeping Sterling Silver Jewellery in its Best Condition

DIY Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewellery at Home


More Articles:

Your Crash Course Introduction into Gold Used in Jewellery
Different Types of Hypoallergenic Metals for Jewellery and Methods for their Care
Top 10 Tips for Safely Buying Jewellery Online
What is Sterling Silver? The Uses of Sterling Silver in Jewellery
Sterling Silver vs. Silver-Plated: What's the Difference?
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