Sterling Silver vs. Regular Silver: What is the Difference?

Sterling Silver vs. Regular Silver: What is the Difference?

Sterling Silver vs. Regular Silver: What is the Difference?

Keyword(s): sterling silver vs. regular silver

Looking ahead, fine jewelry is projected to experience a robust annual growth rate of 8 - 12% between now and 2025. However, most people don't know the difference between sterling silver and regular silver. 

In this guide, we'll help you understand the differences when it comes to sterling silver vs. regular silver so that you can purchase with confidence and make an informed decision.

We'll discuss types of silver, buying tips, the benefits of sterling silver, cleaning your items, and how to check for quality when it comes to buying silver jewelry!

If you're shopping for jewelry and want to know the difference between the types of silver, read on to find out more.

Sterling Silver vs. Regular Silver

Sterling Silver Heart & Paw Pendant Necklace

Although they are often used interchangeably, "silver" and "sterling silver" hold different meanings in the jewelry domain. We will refer to them as pure silver and sterling silver throughout this article. Pure silver is another name for fine silver.

However, some key differences distinguish the two different types of silver.

Sterling Silver

In the world of fine jewelry, sterling silver is more commonplace than pure silver. The reason for this is that sterling silver possesses higher durability and strength due to its composition as an alloy.

Sterling silver is made of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals mixed together.

Metal alloys used in jewelry can include copper, zinc, nickel, and real silver. Look for the words "925 sterling silver" stamped onto the item to make sure it is real sterling silver.

What Does 925 Mean on Jewelry?

That 925 stamped on the inside of your ring is a sign that it's made of sterling silver. Specifically, this means that 92.5% of the metal in the jewelry is pure sterling silver!

Benefits of Sterling Silver

Fine silver is a luxurious and valuable metal, yet not ideal for fashion accessories due to its low durability. Its high purity makes it relatively weak, soft, and malleable. This means that a pure silver ring can easily dent from the slightest contact with harder surfaces throughout our daily routines.

One of the main benefits is that sterling silver is more durable and stronger than pure silver, making it a great option for better-quality accessories.

Pure Silver

While you may be accustomed to seeing pure silver jewelry in specialty stores, however, it is rare. This is because although 100 percent silver appears more valuable than other materials, its softness renders it unsuitable for crafting quality jewelry pieces.

Pure silver, sometimes called fine silver or just plain silver, is a precious metal represented by the symbol Ag on the periodic table. Its use throughout human civilization has made it one of the most revered metals in history—second only to gold! Silver's indelible mark on international culture attests to its status as a powerful representation of wealth and prosperity.

If you're looking for pure silver, the best way to find it is by searching through antique items - think flatware, plates, and cutlery. It's not uncommon to come across tea or coffee sets crafted with actual silver from generations past.

For any item to be considered sterling silver, it must contain 99.9% pure silver and only trace amounts of additional metals (at most 0.01%).

Drawbacks of Pure Silver

Very pure silver is too soft to make jewelry with. Pure silver is soft, so items made with it are not strong and can be easily damaged. It is often mixed with other metals to make sterling silver which is better for making jewelry because it is harder and more durable.

What Does 999 Mean on Jewelry?

Silver that is labeled as fine will have a stamp on it. The stamp will say "99.9", ".999", or "999" which means that it is 99.9% pure silver.

In some cases, such as antiques, the stamp may be hidden beneath crystal inserts or fittings.

Which Is More Expensive?


As sterling silver comprises 92.5% of actual silver, it is worth more than pure silver items. However, other criteria like antiquity or silver jewelry quality of craftsmanship can also contribute to the value.

Pure silver may be viewed as priceless depending on how old one perceives the item and who was previously in possession of it!

The fluctuating market of sterling silver and gold can be unpredictable; however, the general price for pure silver is estimated at around $17 an ounce. Though your jewelry may not fetch a great return on investment, that glamorous tea set could bring in quite a bit more due to its high content of valuable material!

Why Choose Sterling Silver Over Pure Silver?

Sterling Silver Swirl Stud Earrings

Sterling silver offers an array of advantages over pure silver that have already been discussed. These include heightened robustness and durability, as well as enhanced malleability.

Furthermore, sterling silver is more affordable than its counterpart while also providing a larger selection of products available on the market. Truly, choosing sterling silver has tremendous benefits for interested consumers!

Buying Tips and Quality Checking

Antique Hammered Cross Charm Pendant (Silver)

When searching for sterling silver or pure silver, look out for the 925 stamps. This indicates that it is genuine solid sterling silver.

However, in more affordable jewelry stores, you can find cheaper pieces with a layer of sterling silver plating over other base metals like copper and brass. Additionally, white gold plating may be found covering a sterling silver base metal too!

How Can You Tell Them Apart?

To tell them apart, there are a few things to look out for. Jewelry made of silver may not have the numbers 925 or 999 stamped on it. That means it is not solid silver. If the jewelry is made from a metal that cannot be sized, like stainless steel, it won't be able to be sized even if there is silver plating on it.

If you find jewelry without a stamp, it's probably a different material, or just plated over another cheap metal like copper.

If you want to quickly and accurately discern if an item is a pure silver or sterling silver, use a magnet. Pure silver will not be magnetic whereas sterling silver will be; nevertheless, it could also potentially just be stainless steel.

Another thing to look at is the color. For example, stainless steel is not as luminous and bright white as sterling silver. Both metals can be polished, however, the latter remains more precious reflecting a larger amount of light.

You may also distinguish between them when tapping two metals together or with your fingernail; Sterling Silver should make a higher pitch than stainless steel.

How to Tell if Sterling Silver Is Real

Here's a quick checklist to refer to when you're buying jewelry. If you're not sure whether what you're buying is real or not these are some simple things you can do to find out.

  • Look for the number "925" stamped on the jewelry
  • You might also see STERLING or STER wrote on it
  • If the jewelry sticks to a magnet then it is not real sterling silver
  • If it has a strong metallic smell then its not real sterling silver
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Take your piece to a jeweler and get an expert opinion

Cleaning Your Items

Adjustable Moon Cut Stazione Friendship Bracelet (Silver)

You may have heard that sterling silver jewelry is waterproof. You may have also heard that it isn't. Both are true. Silver jewelry is not waterproof, but it is water-resistant.

It can stay in water for a bit of time, but you need to dry it off quickly after. You should not put sterling silver jewelry underwater either. In comparison, pure silver is completely waterproof.

Either way, you shouldn't wear any type of silver jewelry in the sea or swimming pool. Chlorine and salt can both affect the appearance of most metals.

When it comes to cleaning regular silver, the best way is to use a mild soap and water solution. Soak the silver item in the mixture for a few minutes before gently scrubbing with a soft cloth or brush. Afterward, rinse with clean water and dry off with a lint-free cloth. Using this method regularly should help keep your sterling silver jewelry looking bright and shiny.

For sterling silver, instead, rinse the item with water. Then use a soft brush like a toothbrush and soap to clean it. After gently scrubbing it, rinse it again and pat dry.

Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Full Scroll Sterling Silver Heart Locket

Stirling silver can get dark and lose its luster over time. Pure silver will stay looking good for longer, but it can still become darker because of the sulfur in the air. Sterling silver will become darker faster because other metals can cause it to tarnish.

If your silver items become tarnished, you can bring them back to life with nothing more than a polishing cloth! These special cloths contain jeweler's rouge that will restore even pure and sterling silver pieces to their original shine.

Achieve a sparkling result with this cloth, which features one side that eliminates tarnish and the other as a buffer to give your silver jewelry an impeccable sheen. With these cloths, any amount of tarnish on your beloved pieces will be eliminated quickly.

How to Keep Sterling Silver From Tarnishing

Even though tarnishing cannot be completely eliminated, there are several steps you can take to help maintain the luster of your sterling silver jewelry for extended periods.

  • Wear your sterling silver jewelry often as this will help keep it from tarnishing
  • Don't wear it when you are at the gym as the salt in sweat can cause tarnishing
  • Avoid wearing your sterling silver in water with chlorine in it
  • Don’t store your sterling silver items in the bathroom
  • Use a polishing cloth to wipe your jewelry before you put it away
  • Store your jewelry somewhere safe and dry

Is Pure Silver Hypoallergenic?

Italian Sterling Silver Popcorn Bombe Chain

Some people are sensitive to certain metals.

While pure silver may contain a very small amount of nickel, however, the amount is so small it should not cause harm to those with a nickel allergy. Copper is commonly mixed in as an alloy, but any potential trace element of nickel would be only 0.01% if that!

Therefore, this type of silver should be safe for anyone who has an allergic reaction to the metal; although copper allergies are rarer than nickel ones.

Where to Buy Silver Jewelry?

Guardian Angel Medallion in Sterling Silver

Both sterling silver and pure silver jewelry can be found in a variety of places, such as jewelry stores, online retailers, pawn shops, and antique stores.

Many of these locations offer sterling silver varieties that are high quality and long-lasting. It’s also possible to find silver jewelry at flea markets or craft fairs if you’re looking for unique pieces.

Some websites specialize in sterling silver items; others have sterling mixed with other metals. Be sure to read the product descriptions carefully before purchasing so you know exactly what metals are included in the item's composition.

Moreover, consider checking reviews from previous customers to gauge their satisfaction with the product before choosing where to buy your silver jewelry.

Want to Discover More About Jewelry?

Italian Moon Cut Stazione Adjustable Necklace (Silver)

Sterling silver vs. regular silver is something you'll want to consider when shopping for jewelry. Both have their pros and cons. Ultimately, both types of silver have their own unique advantages and disadvantages depending on your individual needs and preferences!

When buying sterling or regular silver jewelry, make sure you look out for signs like “925” stamped or STERLING written on items which will ensure quality pieces from trusted sources.

If you want to discover beautiful silver jewelry, then visit our shop today to find a piece you love either as a gift for yourself or a loved one.

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