Sterling silver jewelry is something that most of us own at one point or another.
The color silver has been widely recognized as a symbol of wealth and prestige and represents elegance, gracefulness, and sophistication.
But what really is sterling silver? Or perhaps, you find yourself asking “What is sterling silver made of”? Does it tarnish, and how is it different from pure silver? Here’s everything you need to know about sterling silver and what makes it so special.
Sterling Silver: What is it Made Of?
So what is sterling silver? Sterling silver is composed of a mix of fine silver and copper or zinc.
Pure silver and sterling silver are made up of two different materials with distinct techniques, life-spans, and prices. It’s hard to tell the difference between pure silver and sterling silver from afar. By understanding what pure silver is, you can gain a better understanding of what sterling silver is.
Sterling silver is alloyed with copper or zinc, making it 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy. The copper or zinc makes the metal harder and more durable, allowing it to be used to make jewelry, silverware, mugs, etc. You also shouldn’t confuse it with fine silver, which consists of 99.9% pure silver. This material doesn’t tarnish, but it tends to be too soft and ductile, which limits its uses.
Reasons to Choose Sterling Silver Jewelry
For jewelers and consumers, sterling silver is very attractive. But what is in sterling silver that makes it such a desirable metal to use in jewelry making? Why do people around the world love it? Here are the top reasons sterling silver is so popular.
1. Durable and Light
Sterling silver receives added strength and durability from the added materials. It’s lightweight and perfect for everyday wear. Sterling silver necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings don’t dent or scratch easily, leaving you with a gorgeous, elegant, and tough piece of jewelry.
2. It’s Trendy
What is sterling silver’s popularity all about? With new designs constantly being created, sterling silver is always guaranteed to be in style. With sterling silver, you're always on-trend.
3. Unlimited Options
Sterling silver is highly durable and can be molded into many shapes and sizes. Its designs can also be ancient or modern, depending on your taste. Whether you’re searching for a necklace, bracelet, or ring, there’s something for everyone.
4. It Is Versatile
What is sterling silver known for? Being versatile. Because of its greyish color, sterling silver complements any skin tone or outfit color. Whether you’re attending a formal event or going for a casual lunch, sterling silver looks great with anything.
5. Easy Maintenance
Rust is not an issue with sterling silver, only tarnishing is. An easy way to avoid tarnish is to store your jewelry in a tight space in a dark area. Your natural body oils and lotions will also keep sterling silver shiny and beautiful. If your jewelry does tarnish, all you need to do is rub the tarnish off using a microfiber fabric.
Why Buy Sterling Silver Instead of Pure Silver?
The only difference between sterling silver and pure silver is the addition of another metal for durability. So how else does sterling silver compare to pure silver?
A common question is: what is sterling’s silver price? Depending on the item you are buying, the price can range from $10 to hundreds of dollars. However, this is still a lot cheaper than pure silver. With an affordable price and added durability, sterling silver is a more practical and realistic choice for many.
Even with the addition of another metal, sterling silver maintains the luxury and elegance of fine silver. Since it retains its beautiful, shiny, and glowing appearance, it is tough to tell the two metals apart. So if you’re concerned about your friends or family telling the difference, you can put your worries aside.
Able to hold its shape, sterling silver has been used in a number of products ranging from serving platters to jewelry. Fine silver tends to be an impractical choice because it is too soft, and items need to be able to hold their shape.
Recognizing Sterling Silver Marks
It has been a legal responsibility for jewelers and silversmiths to stamp their sterling silver pieces. So what is sterling silver’s mark? There are over one sterling silver stamps that vary with the location, time, and manufacturer. Some of the most common hallmarks include:
- “Sterling silver”
Other countries also have their own sterling stamps. A lion with one paw raised means that it's made in England. A thistle mark means the sterling is made in Scotland, and a crowned harp means it’s made in Ireland. If your item is made of fine silver, you would see a stamp of .999, 999, or 99.9. If you are skeptical, you can hold your jewelry up to a magnet, and if it sticks, then it’s made of fine silver.