Sterling Silver vs. Silver: What's The Difference

In this article, we examine the difference between sterling silver and silver.

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Sterling Silver Teapot

Silver has been a symbol of wealth and success for many years. This holds true regardless of whether your silver is pure silver or less pure sterling silver, as you often can't tell its status from a quick glance.

In this article, we examine the difference between sterling silver and silver.

Pure Silver

Silver is one of many elements represented on the periodic table with the symbol Ag.

Chemical Makeup

Any items described as pure or fine silver are made from 99.9% pure elements of silver. There will be very low traces of other elements (0.01%), but it is almost pure silver (hence its name).

Substitutes for Silver

Pure silver is challenging to form correctly and can be very soft. This makes it difficult for you to make items used daily or in specific shapes. This is why pure silver isn't used for delicate jewelry. As a result, they are easily bent, bent, broken, or misshaped, so fine silver is often used to make jewelry.


Tarnishing can commonly happen to silver. This occurs when silver reacts with the gasses in the atmosphere.


Fine silver is usually marked with a mark to show authenticity. For example, to indicate it is 99.9%, the stamp will usually be "999", ".999", and "99.9". This is because fine silver must be at least 99.9% to be considered fine.

Sterling Silver

Pure silver (also known as fine or pure silver) is the purest form of silver. So it makes sense then that "sterling" isn't as refined.

Chemical Makeup

The metal alloy used to describe sterling silver is called "silver." This is sterling silver that combines several metals rather than one (unlike pure silver).

Sterling silver is 92.5% and 7.5%, respectively. This 7.5% usually comes from zinc or copper.

Sterling Silver Uses

Alloy metals make sterling silver stronger and last longer. This makes sterling silver more durable and can be used to make many other things, such as:

  • Jewelry
  • Silverware
  • Plates
  • Platters
  • Coffee sets
  • Silver-plated products

If you see something advertised as "silver-plated," it is most likely that the piece is made of another metal. There's just a thin layer of sterling "plated" over the item.

You will also notice that the sterling silver list has a longer use than the fine silver one. Because sterling silver is more durable than fine silver, it won't get damaged or dented from everyday wear and tear.


Pure silver is more susceptible to tarnish, unlike sterling silver. Silver can also tarnish when exposed to air, as we've already discussed. It's much easier to tarnish sterling silver because of the alloy metals contained in it.

Tinting is easy on copper, zinc, and nickel. However, combine those metals with another metal susceptible to tarnishing, such as silver, and the tarnishing process occurs faster.


Sterling silver is stamped to show that it is genuine sterling silver. To indicate the purity and quality of the silver inside, these stamps are often "925", or "92.5" or '.925". You may also see "ss," which is a stamp made of sterling silver.

Why Use Sterling Silver Instead of Pure Silver?

There are some benefits to sterling silver that could make you choose sterling silver products over fine-silver items.

Cost is the most obvious. Fine silver is purer than sterling silver. This makes it more costly. But sterling silver looks just as good as fine silver, so you can still get timeless pieces at a much lower price.

The durability factor is also essential. Due to the alloys of metals, sterling silver can last longer than fine silver. This can make your piece last longer and keep it looking its best.

Sterling silver is much easier to form than soft and malleable silver. Therefore, you'll have more options for sterling silver vs. silver.

How to Care for Your Pure Silver and Sterling Silver Items

You can make sterling and pure silver items last longer with simple precautions.

You need to be careful when using pure silver. It would be best if you did not overuse or use fine silver items because they are not durable and soft.

Both sterling and pure silver should be kept cool, dark. Your silver items can be cleaned with anti-tarnish products and a soft towel.


Q: What is Sterling Silver?

A: Sterling silver is an amalgam of silver that contains 92.5% pure and 7.5% other metals, often copper. A sterling silver necklace marked with the 925 symbols is made from silver that has been certified to have a minimum of 92.5% Silver content. Sterling silver is more durable than silver and is better suited for jewelry making.

Q: What is the quality of sterling silver jewelry?

A: Sterling Silver jewelry is a high-quality option that contains 92.5% of silver. This makes it very popular with both jewelry collectors as well as designers. In addition, they are purchased from a respected jeweler or brand can last a lifetime if taken care of properly.

Q: How does the United States regulate sterling silver jewelry?

A: The sterling silver jewelry that contains 92.5% silver must bear a U. S. Code stamp. This stamp will usually be located on sterling pieces in a spot that is not visible during wear. Therefore, you should not assume that jewelry described as "silver" is sterling silver. Often, the term is used to describe flash-plated silver over cheaper brass.

Q: Is sterling silver safe to wear every day?

A: Absolutely! In fact, sterling silver should be worn daily to prevent tarnish from building up. Precious metals, such as gold and silver, perform well when worn often. So you can add sterling silver jewelry to your collection with confidence, knowing that it is strong and will look great for years to come.

Q: For my jewelry collection, is real silver better than sterling?

A: Let's first address that sterling is 92.5% pure silver and an alloy of other metals 7.5% (usually copper). Pure precious metals are not used in jewelry making. The metals are too soft to be mixed with other metals to create an alloy. Therefore, sterling silver jewelry is an excellent choice for jewelry building and jewelry creation.

Q: Why is sterling Silver so expensive?

A: Sterling Silver's precious metal content (92.5%) makes it more costly than flash-plated jewelry. Because of its intrinsic beauty and affordability, sterling silver is highly valued by people who purchase it. Although more expensive metals, such as platinum, are more durable and can be an excellent investment, sterling silver is the best option for jewelry that will last a lifetime. Sterling silver is a perfect choice for jewelry building because it continues to increase in value with time.

If you still need help comparing sterling silver vs. silver, we can help at AU Precious Metal Solutions.