What is Sterling Silver and how is it different from Pure Silver?

What is Sterling Silver and how is it different from Pure Silver?

When buying silver jewellery, you are usually given 2 options, Sterling Silver or Pure Silver, but there are subtle differences so read on to learn more...

Silver is one of the most valuable metals and its use goes back to before 4000 BC. The value of silver in ancient times made it one of the most traded items and owning pieces of this precious metal was synonymous with success, glamour, wealth and prosperity. It is ductile and malleable, which means that it can be drawn into wire or beaten into sheets and is therefore ideal for use in jewellery making of all types.

Plain, engraved or stone set silver is so wonderfully versatile. It is brighter in colour than the other white metals, silver has been used in fashionable and alluring jewellery throughout history.

You may have come across the term 'sterling silver', which is an alloy, made up of copper and 92.5% pure silver and this is reflected in the 925 sterling silver hallmark stamp. Slightly harder than pure silver, sterling silver is the most popular alloy for use in the manufacture of jewellery and silverware.

There are a few benefits to sterling silver that might push you to purchase sterling silver items over fine silver with the first most obvious being cost, but the main reason for adding copper and other metals into pure silver is to strengthen it and toughen it making it ideal for use in long-lasting jewellery.

One downside is that sterling silver is more easily tarnished than pure silver. Pure silver doesn’t tarnish because there is no metal added but sterling silver tarnishes over time. Copper is the most common added to pure silver to create sterling silver, and after exposure, it gets discoloured which affects the surface of the item made using sterling silver.

Pure silver, also referred to as fine silver, has actual silver content of 99.9%, usually marked with the 999 hallmark stamp, is quite soft and difficult to shape properly, which makes it hard to make items that require daily use or specific shapes. Because of this, pure silver is not generally used to make fine and delicate jewellery items.

This softness also means that fine silver items aren't as durable. They can be easily bent, made misshapen, or damaged, which is why fine silver is mostly reserved to make fine jewellery.

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