There have been some changing trends in precious metals over the years. The rise of rose gold and the shifts between yellow gold, white gold, and back again are just a few. There are a few favorites that have stood the test of time, though, and sterling silver is one of them.
As with other types of jewelry, sterling silver jewelry is something that can last a lifetime or longer. The trick is educating yourself about the metal and learning how to take care of it.
Whether you're new to solid sterling silver or a lifelong fan, here's what you need to know.
If you want your sterling silver jewelry pieces to become family heirlooms, you need to know how to protect them. Start with these essential facts.
Most people have heard of sterling silver but not everyone knows what it is. Sterling silver is an alloy, which means it's a mixture of a few metals.
Unlike fine silver or pure silver, sterling silver is 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% can be any one of several other metals or a combination of metals. It's most often copper, but the composition can vary.
Have you noticed mysterious markings on your sterling silver jewelry? They're likely to be assayer's marks.
Assayer's marks tell you about the origins of your sterling silver. You may see an image like an animal or another symbol. This signifies the country where the sterling silver was made.
In addition to the manufacturer's country, you'll often see a number that notes the purity of the silver. Because sterling silver is 92.5% silver, the marking will say 925.
Sterling silver isn't considered an "investment metal" because it's not a pure precious metal. Even still, its value changes based on the price of silver because it has such a high silver content.
If you ever choose to sell your sterling silver jewelry, it's a good idea to research the silver prices and choose your timing wisely.
You may ask yourself, why would anyone bring down the value of silver by adding another metal to it? If you've ever seen anything that was pure silver and wasn't brand new, you'd know why.
Silver is a soft metal. It doesn't hold its shape well and it's prone to dents and scratches. It's beautiful for display decor, but not for any items that may get frequent use.
Adding copper or other metals makes sterling silver harder and more durable than pure silver. This makes it more practical for jewelry, cutlery, and more.
While adding copper to silver makes sterling silver more shape-stable, it also makes it tarnish faster. The copper or other metals come into contact with oxygen and other environmental conditions, leaving a tarnish behind.
Over time, tarnishing can do serious damage to sterling silver. To keep your pieces looking their best, you need to clean your sterling silver on a regular basis.
A simple polish with a soft cloth like microfiber goes a long way. Be careful to avoid anything abrasive, though, so you don't scratch the jewelry.
Most of us have had at least one frustrating time when we fell in love with a new piece of jewelry only to get a rash the first time we wore it. For people who have sensitive skin, sterling silver can irritate their skin.
Some manufacturers use one of several processes to put a damper on irritation. One option is flashing, which applies a thin layer of pure silver on top of the sterling silver. Sterling silver pieces that have an unusually bright sheen are usually have flashed.
Another common process is plating. It's similar to flashing but it uses a different type of metal like copper or nickel.
You may also hear about sterling silver jewelry that's coated with rhodium. This makes the pieces more resistant to tarnishing.
As important as regular polishing is, there are other ways to keep tarnishing at bay.
Humidity is one of the worst culprits of tarnishing. Store your sterling silver in a jewelry box, display case, or other enclosed place and include desiccate packets. These will absorb the humidity in the case and protect your jewelry.
If you aren't displaying your jewelry or if you're storing it long-term, there are other ways to keep it from tarnishing. Store it in jeweler's cloths or in polyurethane bags to keep the oxygen away.
As challenging as it can be to keep oxygen and moisture away from sterling silver, there are other precautions to take too.
One of the most damaging chemicals for sterling silver is chlorine or bleach. Never wear sterling silver rings or jewelry while you swim or while you clean with bleach.
While saltwater pools are becoming popular, you still need to take off your jewelry. Salt is another major risk factor for corroding sterling silver.
Perfume and hair spray can damage your favorite jewelry as well. If you're getting ready for a night out, it's best to apply your perfume and hair spray first. Wait for it to dry before you put on your jewelry.
Finally, too much exposure to direct sunlight can damage sterling silver. We aren't saying you shouldn't wear your jewelry outside. Just store it in an area that's away from the sun.
Solid sterling silver is one of the most popular metals in jewelry, and it's easy to see why. It's beautiful, durable, and more affordable than many other options.
The facts above can help you care for your sterling silver and keep it in tip-top shape for a lifetime. Don't let them scare you, though. Jewelry is meant to be worn and enjoyed.
As long as you clean it often and store it the right way, it's likely to survive whatever life throws your way.
To find your new favorite piece of jewelry, shop our latest jewelry pieces today.