What is Sterling Silver? Your Questions Answered

You've heard of sterling silver, but what is it exactly? Check out this guide to get your questions answered and learn whether it's the right metal for you.

Keyword(s): sterling silver, what is sterling silver

 

Over 30 million people purchase fine jewelry every year based on metrics recorded in spring of 2017. This number has steadily grown year over year as more people are appreciating the impact that quality jewelry can have on their wardrobe, appearance, and confidence.

But with all of the jewelry options you have, what's the best kind to buy?

There's no one size fits all answer to that question. However, one material that continues to grow in popularity within the designer jewelry market is sterling silver.

Silver that's labeled as sterling is probably something you've heard about. If you're like most shoppers though, you may get confused as to what it is exactly.

Our team of experts at Roma Designer Jewelry have put together this guide to help answer your sterling silver-related questions!

1) What is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy that is almost fully comprised of pure silver. The exact amount of silver content is 92.5%. The remaining 7.5% is almost always copper.

2) What Is the Purpose of Mixing Silver with Other Materials?

The primary purpose of introducing a small percentage of copper into a silver product is to give the silver some additional strength and durability.

Silver, when in its pure state, can be easily damaged. The material by itself is naturally malleable and therefore can get bent or warped from its original form unintentionally - not an ideal characteristic for jewelry. 

To help mitigate this risk, it was discovered that trace portions of stronger metals could get mixed into the silver compound when jewelry making. That led to the creation of sterling.

With silver that is sterling, customers can be more confident in the durability of the silver products they purchase.

3) Does Silver Have an Impure Color When Mixed with Other Materials?

No. Although mixed with other materials, sterling jewelry still manages to maintain the tone associated with pure silver.

This is a by-product of centuries of trial and error. Jewelry makers worked hard to come up with the perfect material to mix with silver that would increase its hardness but not adversely affect its look.

4) Identifying Sterling VS Regular Silver

It's required by international standards that all fine jewelry pieces be stamped with a "mark". These marks disclose to buyers the presence of fine metals within the jewelry to ensure consumers are aware of what they're buying.

With fine silver, the mark will read that the silver content is 99.9%. This is commonly noted with a .999, 999 or 99.9.

With sterling, marks will disclose that pieces are 92.5% silver. Expect to see a .925, 925 or 92.5 on any sterling pieces you purchase.

Usually, the mark can be found in a place that is visible, but not noticeable. On clasps, hooks, closures or other inconspicuous places. 

5) Are There Silver Pieces Sold That Are under 92.5% Silver and Are They Still Considered Sterling?

There are pieces of jewelry available for purchase that get marked as having silver content below 92.5%. Russian silver commonly comes in at a purity level of below 90%. German silver can be below 80%.

It's important to know that any silver below 92.5% is not considered sterling by United States standards. Still, in other parts of the world, pieces with lower purity content may get marketed as such. Italy has very stringent rules for its jewelry industry and marks of purity are a matter of manufacturing pride. 

Therefore, it's important to not be moved by how a piece gets marketed. Instead, look at a pieces mark to understand the amount of silver you're purchasing for the price.

6) How Can the Purity of Silver Be Tested?

Normally, you can rely on the mark a piece of jewelry has to deduce its silver content. For some, despite what a mark discloses, they may be skeptical that the mark is not accurately depicting the silver content of a piece.

This is particularly true when buying off-brand pieces internationally or locally with a non-reputable seller. Cruise ship ports, border towns, and flea markets are less-than-ideal locales for buying genuine sterling silver. 

In order to test silver content, most will utilize an acid test. Acid has an adverse effect on the color of non-silver material. Because of that, taking a small shaving from a piece of jewelry and exposing it to an acid test can let you know if a piece's purity is below sterling if the shaving's color changes.

A non-affected piece will have a silver content of at least 92.5%.

There are at home jewelry testing kits you can purchase online. You can also go to a reputable jeweler who can perform this test professionally for a nominal fee.

7) Where Can I Buy High-Quality Sterling Jewelry

Sellers of sterling jewelry are a dime a dozen. Not all are created equal though.

To ensure you're getting what you're paying for, make sure that all sellers you do business with are selling jewelry that is marked to disclose their silver content. Also, it's best to do business with a seller that stands behind the quality of their products by offering excellent customer service.

Reputation is generally earned over time. How long has the company been in business? Do they have 3rd party validation from established retail relationships, media outlets, and repeat customers?

Read the reviews other customers are leaving online about the seller you're thinking of doing business with. If the seller you're thinking of buying from doesn't have much in the way of an online presence, you could be taking a risk.

To be safe, purchasing jewelry from reputable retailers can usually ensure you're getting a high-quality piece of jewelry. You may pay a little more than the listing on eBay or "steal" on Amazon, but there is a greater peace of mind as well. 

Summarizing "What is Sterling Silver"

Sterling silver is a material that's made up of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metal (usually copper). This mixture increases the durability of a piece while not affecting the natural silver visage buyers are looking for.

A piece of jewelry's mark will tell you its silver content and whether or not it's sterling. Be sure to check before making your purchase!

If you're looking for stunning sterling silver pieces that are high quality and trusted by Costco, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, and others - look no further than Roma Designer Jewelry.

At Roma, we offer a variety of designer sterling silver pieces. These range from rings, necklaces, bracelets and more!

Shop our designs on our website or learn more about jewelry on our blog!



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