You know what they say… new friends are silver… but what kind of silver? Typically I like to think of them as sterling.
Sterling silver is an alloy (a mix of metals) of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper, although other metals can be used, too. Why do we do this? Like gold, silver in its pure form is very soft and not suitable for jewelry or other hard-wearing accessories. Just that little bit of other metal will make for a harder substance, and thus a more durable piece. That 925 you see stamped or otherwise marked on silver jewelry? That denotes it as sterling silver – 925 is just short for the 92.5% of silver metal in the alloy.
Fine silver is 99.9%, and can be seen in jewelry usually as a final plate (a thin layer chemically or electrically bonded to the outside of a piece) around sterling silver. Like gold, it can eventually wear off and need to be re-plated. Almost any jeweler can do this for you.
I love working with sterling silver. Silver has the unique quality of being a very bright, white-color metal. Other metals that mimic silver just don’t have that bright white shine and the true depth of silver. It’s a great material for heirloom pieces, because silver retains value in the same way as gold and platinum (if not as MUCH value).
Silver will absolutely tarnish! All metals will tarnish or oxidize because of normal chemical processes. Sterling silver will tarnish a little more if the alloy is made with copper. Fortunately said tarnish can be cleaned easily with a polishing cloth, chemical cleanser, or abrasive physical polishing – that’s right, the old elbow grease.
Do you have a metal allergy? Sterling silver will probably be okay for you to wear, as long as the other metal in the alloy isn’t your allergy-metal (such as nickel, a common allergy-inducing metal. Fortunately since most sterling silver is made with copper, you’re okay).
Got questions about sterling silver jewelry or other metals? Ask me!