Silver boasts a rich history. For long, humans have entrenched silver’s sparkling splendor. Often, silver is handy in symbolizing celebrations, achievements, ceremonies and milestones for its imposing ornamental value.
While that is the case, the million-dollar question is, how much do you know about this valuable metal?
Is there a difference between sterling silver vs pure silver vs 925 silver?
Why does it tarnish?
How can you clean it?
Is there a way to differentiate between fake and original silver?
All these are million-dollar questions that prospective silver buyers grapple with.
In the Post
- Silver: The Lowdown
- Differences: Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver vs 925 Silver
- What Is Pure Silver?
- Sterling Silver (925 Silver) Vs. Pure Silver
- Sterling Silver In Jewelry
- How To Identify Real Silver
- Other Varieties Of Silver
- How To Care For Your Silver
Silver: The Lowdown
Silver, similar in its character and composition to copper and gold, is a highly malleable, ductile, and soft metal that features top-notch polish.
Although it does not boast the hardness of gold, it has numerous uses, particularly when mixed with other metals. For instance, this white metal has an illustrious reputation for its application in coins and jewelry, but today, its primary use is industrial.
Compared to gold, silver is more reactive. On top of that, extracting it from its ores when mined is harder, meaning that silver’s antiquity supplies were rarer back then.
Consequently, it was costlier until around 1500 BC when experts from Egypt discovered a new method of refining it.
Today, silver is less valuable than gold. Gold is not only rarer but also more challenging to mine in bulk.
Differences: Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver vs 925 Silver
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver refers to an alloy created by mixing silver and other elements. It constitutes 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloy. The alloys can include nickel, copper or zinc.
While Europe, the USA and several other countries in the world enforce a strict sterling silver standard at 92.5 silver to 7.5 other alloys, the standards of other countries such as France is at 95 silver to 5 other alloys. Nonetheless, the most common global standard is 92.5.
The truth is, most silver jewelry that you purchase and put on, is sterling silver.
What Is Pure Silver?
Pure silver also goes by the name fine silver. It features an actual 99.9% silver content and 1% trace elements. In this form, the white metal is beautiful. It suffers from minimal tarnish. However, generally, it is too malleable and soft.
To make it stronger and viable for many uses, professionals alloy with copper or with a host of other metals. Copper or the other metals not only make silver durable and harder but also easier to work with without compromising its color.
What Is 925 Silver?
925 silver is just sterling silver. Both are made from a similar alloy blend. The only difference is their names.
Sterling Silver (925 Silver) Vs. Pure Silver
Jewelry made of silver carries certain stamps. They are known as hallmarks. Hallmarks help to identify the silver. 999 is the mark for fine silver. While you can identify sterling silver by other marks such as TSG, STERLING, STER or Sterling Silver, the most common is 925.
Durability is one of the major distinguishing factors between these two forms of silver.
Which of the two is hypoallergenic?
In addition to being hypoallergenic, pure silver does not irritate the skin.
Sterling silver, especially that contains nickel, which is a common allergen, might irritate your skin. Do you have skin sensitivities? Before you make a purchase, it is prudent to inquire about the metals.
Another area that distinguishes the two is value.
- Pure silver is somewhat costlier as it consists of higher silver content.
- Sterling silver is less costly because some of the alloys are not valuable. They do not add any worthiness to silver.
Note: The difference in price is negligible.
When it comes to purity, silver lands on a rating system or numerical scale based on 1000.
Pure silver enjoys a 999 rating.
For silver to be considered as sterling silver, it needs to meet not less than 92.5 purity, also known as 925.
From this rating, it is clear that 925 silver and sterling silver are the same.
Sterling Silver In Jewelry
One of the best attributes of sterling silver is the fact that you can style it with anything. It is not only timeless and elegant but also versatile and ideal for any event.
From formal occasions to casual dinners, sterling silver adds some classy touch of shine, which elevates style without overdoing it.
Some of the common types of jewelry made of sterling silver include:
By dawning an elegant sterling silver bracelet, you can be able to add some style of shine with a wrist’s flick.
In most cases, sadly, earrings are made with cheaper metals that can cause irritation as well as lead to infection and bleeding. The next time you fall in love with a set of earrings, make sure they are made of sterling silver.
Often, sterling silver is handy when it comes to making pendants and necklace chains.
Some sterling silver alloys are hypoallergenic which makes them safe for your skin. They will not leave any marks or irritate your skin. For this reason, sterling silver is used to make rings.
Designers and jewelers use sterling silver as a reliable and elegant metal casing for pendants to firmly hold stones and jewels.
How To Identify Real Silver
The last thing you want to do is make the mistake of buying fake silver. By now, you know that many people consider silver to be a precious metal as it resists oxidation and corrosion.
Rather than buy cheap (read fake) jewelry that will require constant replacement, why not purchase something legit.
There are plenty of ways to ascertain whether the silverware you decorate or purchase is genuine. From appearance to home testing, smell testing and feel, by the end of this primer, you will be an expert in identifying fake silver.
Here are some tips to help you establish whether the quality of silver is up to standard:
Does it have the 925 stamp?
Remember the aforementioned 92.5%?
To let you know that your jewelry is authentic, jewelers are fond of printing a 0.925 stamp. If you have not noticed, the stamps are normally small and put in inconspicuous places. You need to check your bracelet’s bottom part or silver ring’s inside part. Others put the stamp on the button’s side.
Does it have a tiny .925 or 999 stamp? If it does, then it is legit.
In most instances, legit silver jewelry will be stamped or hallmarked with 999 (fine silver) and 925 (sterling silver). You might also see the FS and SS that represent each.
Does it tarnish?
This is another zillion-dollar question that needs a concrete answer. If it does, then you are all clear – it is not a bad thing. Is your sterling silver discolored? It should be a sign of authenticity. Over time, fakes tend to lose their silvery luster.
No amount of polishing can restore its original luster. Nevertheless, it is possible to polish silver to its smooth and original color regardless of how much time passes.
Look, smell, feel
Don’t have time to visit an expert jeweler? How about you test your unique silverware with your senses!
- Look – Does it peel outside? Is there a layer of metal? Any color distortion? All these signs point to fake silver.
- Smell – Does the silver smell funny, like sulfur? Is the smell natural? Always know that silver does not have a noticeable smell.
- Feel – Does it feel scratchy? Bumpy? Generally, not smooth? Is it super strong? That does not sound like authentic silver. It might be another element as silver is flexible and soft to some extent.
While these tests based on your senses ought to be enough to ascertain your silver’s quality, an acid test’s scientific results are undeniable if you need more assurance.
Just a simple acid test should reveal the authenticity or otherwise of silver. A local jewelry store should conduct the test for you on the spot. Alternatively, you can order the right acid solution at home and try it yourself.
All you need to do is put a single drop of acid on your silver. If the color of the acid changes, then your is a fake. Vice-versa is true.
Does your jewelry connect to a magnetic surface? If it does, then it is fake. Silver does not boast similar magnetic properties as other metals such as cobalt, nickel and iron.
How about you bring a magnet the next time you are shopping for silver?
Other Varieties Of Silver
Apart from sterling silver, silver is available in other varieties. They vary in the silver content they contain. Some of these are:
Another common variety is silver plate. It is made by electroplating a thin silver coating onto a base metal like copper. Unlike fine and sterling silver, silver plate isn’t valuable. Additionally, it wears off over time.
How To Care For Your Silver
Having learnt the similarities, differences and a host of other important information about the various forms of silver, it is only right that we wrap this comprehensive primer with a brief look at how you can take care of your precious metal.
When silver comes into contact with household chemicals, chlorinated water, rubber, perspiration or any substance that contains sulfur such as wool, latex, onions, mustard, eggs, mayonnaise etc, it can cause tarnish and corrosion. Therefore, it is wise to remove your treasured jewelry when handling household chores.
In addition to that, you should also avoid exposing it to direct sunlight as doing so causes tarnishing. Before going sunbathing and swimming, it is prudent to take off any silver jewelry on your body.
The other ‘’enemies’’ of silver that can accelerate tarnishing include certain perfumes, hair products, hair spray, cosmetics and lotions.
Ensure proper storage
Just like exposing silver to air tarnishes it, storing in airtight plastic bags with some anti-tarnish strips acts as a preventive measure.
The only thing you need to avoid is storing several jewelry pieces inside the same bag. Because silver is usually a soft metal, individual pieces can easily scratch each other. You should keep the chain or link bracelets unhooked or unclasped to avoid scratching.
If you do not have plastic bags, make sure that the area you store your jewelry has low humidity.
To minimize tarnish, put a piece of chalk, a silica gel container, or packet of activated charcoal inside the storage area.
When it comes to polishing, it works well when the tarnishing on the silver is not too severe. To polish your silver items, use a special silver cloth to do it gently.
A soft nonabrasive cloth, microfiber or lint-free flannel can also do the trick. Avoid polishing using tissues or paper towels as they contain fibers, which can scratch the soft silver. When doing it, avoid rubbing in circles because it magnifies any small scratches.