Silver is similar in composition to copper and gold. It’s malleable, soft, and ductile metal that can also take a high polish. Although it isn’t as hard as gold, silver still has many uses.
Prehistoric humans knew of silver as one of the seven metals of antiquity. The others were gold, copper, tin, iron, mercury, and lead. However, it has been used for so many years that it is difficult to determine its history and early uses.
It is more reactive than gold, and it is harder to mine from its ores. In antiquity supplies, silver was scarcer than gold and thus more costly until 1500 BC, when Egyptians discovered new ways to refine it.
Even though silver is one of many precious metals, it is much less valuable today than gold, which is rarer and more complicated to mine in bulk.
In this article, we will fully answer “what is sterling silver?”
What is Sterling Silver?
You might wonder, “is sterling silver real silver?” You can be sure that the answer is yes. True sterling silver is an alloy form of silver and is more suitable for jewelry and other metalwork.
Fine silver or pure silver is 99.9% silver content. Fine silver is stunning and has minimal tarnish. However, it’s too soft and malleable to be used for most other purposes, such as making jewelry.
Sterling silver is a silver alloy of 92.5% pure silver alloyed with 7.5% other metals (usually copper). As a result, sterling silver can sometimes be called “925 silver” or hallmarked with a “925 stamp”.
Copper makes silver more complex, stronger, and easier to use. However, it does not compromise color. Sterling silver will make up most regular silver jewelry you purchase and wear.
Sterling silver has one drawback: the copper in it can cause it to tarnish faster, making the metal darken or turn black, especially when exposed to humid conditions. However, it’s easy to clean sterling silver, and it will not rust or perish from everyday use.
Sterling silver jewelry can be an excellent choice for most situations and can last a lifetime, and will not rust or become brittle. Therefore, your silver jewelry should be possible to pass on to the next generation.
Even sterling silver is soft enough not to be used with expensive gemstone settings. Because they are more durable and less susceptible to damage, platinum or gold are the most common metals used in this situation.
Silver is soft, so you need to be more careful when cleaning it. Avoid using harsh cleaners like baking soda or toothpaste, as they can strip some metal.
Sterling Silver vs. Gold
While your personal choice will determine whether you choose silver or gold jewelry, it is not a decision that is easy. Cost is the most important factor unless you are incredibly wealthy. Although silver is a precious metal, you may be surprised to know that silver is much less expensive than gold.
How expensive is silver?
Silver is 75x less expensive than gold. This means that assembling a solid-gold jewelry collection is a more expensive option than silver.
This is because silver is much more plentiful than gold in the world. Estimates suggest that around 1.4 million tons of silver have been extracted throughout human history. On the other hand, only 173,000 tons of gold have been mined.
How do you know it’s real silver?
Your silver jewelry will often have a hallmark or stamp with 925 (sterling silver) or 999 (pure silver or fine silver.) The stamps SS and FS can also represent each.
Hallmarking silver jewelry is not required in every country. For some designers, the hallmark may be distracting from the finished sterling silver pieces.
How can you tell if your silver is real?
A strong magnet is a good choice, but it’s best to use a rare-earth magnet. If the magnet sticks to the metal, it is not silver. Or, the piece may have been silver-plated on a base metal. This is not a conclusive test because silver-plated jewelry may contain a reactive metal.
You can also do an acid test by applying a small amount of chlorine bleach to a piece of sterling silver jewelry discreetly and observing for any reaction. The presence of bleach will cause silver (including silver plated items) to turn brown or black. Rinse the metal with water to remove discoloration, and then use a silver dip or soft cloth.
This should be enough to convince you why sterling silver jewelry is not a good idea in a swimming pool.
You can also buy a precious metal test kit on Amazon or eBay. These kits will definitely tell what the metal is if the instructions are followed.
Sterling silver’s beautiful, warm color will suit nearly anyone.
It is unlikely that anyone with sensitive skin will experience any adverse effects from a sterling silver piece, unlike those who have used other metals. It’s also significantly cheaper than metals like platinum and gold, so you can afford to buy lots of beautiful silver jewelry.
Silver, like gold, will maintain its value over time and may even rise in value compared to other metals. The metal is infinitely recyclable and can be used in many different ways.
If you are still wondering, “what is sterling silver,” or need help identifying sterling silver, AU Precious Metal Solutions can help you out!