Silver is a soft metal that can as an alloy with other known elements, and as an ore with other minerals in tow. Much of the silver that is mined today is found as ores or combinations of silver and one or two different minerals.
Silver is considered a precious metal because of its scarce supply, utility, and beauty. It is used primarily in the production of jewelry, but it has industrial uses as well.
Silver is a component of electronic devices because of their high rate of conduction. The electrical and thermal conductivity is unsurpassed by other metals, which makes it a sought after material in different manufacturing industries.
At high temperatures, silver also reflects light well, compared to other available common metals. Because of its durability and appearance, silver was also used in crafting coins. However, many countries have turned to much cheaper metals because silver is now more in demand, and it is now costlier to produce coins in pure silver or silver alloy.
What is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is the alloy form of silver. Typically, sterling silver is comprised of at least 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% or less corresponding to another metal. The standard choice for alloying silver is copper, which is also used for alloying gold (as in the case of rose gold).
Sterling silver is useful because it can be molded and made into different products such as coffee sets, jewelry, silver-plated ornamental items, silverware, and even plates.
Silver and gold precede other metals of antiquity, and we are fortunate that some manufacturers continue to make products with this precious metal. While it is not as expensive as gold, it remains a choice of precious metal for many applications.
There should be no confusion between sterling silver (92.5% silver) and silver-plated items. Silver-plated items are manufactured chiefly from other metals and have only had a thin outer layer of silver on top.
This is usually accomplished by using an electroplating device.
The same process is used for electroplating jewelry with gold other precious metals. Electroplating reduces the cost of items while maintaining the appearance of the more expensive metal.
You may have also heard of fine silver, which has a fineness corresponding to 99.9% silver. Silver purity is attractive to many people, and 99.9% of silver is very soft.
Alloying is done to strengthen soft metals like gold and silver. Alloying increases the durability of metals and makes them worthier for daily use. Otherwise, we’d all be using silver that easily bends or breaks when slight pressure is applied.
To clarify any confusion, fine silver is always stamped with the
marker 999, while sterling silver is sealed with a standard 925 to indicate the quantity of metal alloyed to the silver. Again, pure silver can easily be deformed because of its softness, which often makes it impractical jewelry because we don’t want jewelry that breaks easily.
Deformation is a massive problem with jewelry, and the only way that manufacturers can ensure that their mass-marketed jewelry won’t break is to use a sufficient amount of metal to reduce the occurrence of breakage.
Sterling Silver Benefits
Why do people love sterling silver?
There are several benefits of choosing sterling silver over plated silver or fine silver.
- Cost – Due to the alloying, sterling silver is more affordable, comparing with fine silver. If you want to boost your collection and get more silver products, 925 silver is best because this type of silver won’t break the bank.
While 999 silver has more silver content (of course), the items are going to be more fragile than 925 silver, and there is a risk of deforming it if you use 999 silver items frequently. This might be reduced to personal preference, but it makes practical sense to choose the more durable product.
- Durability – Alloying silver with other metals dramatically reduces the chances of early or accidental breakage. This is a massive benefit for people who want to wear silver jewelry without worrying that chains and links will break off.
- Appearance – The beauty or appearance of sterling silver is not sacrificed when elemental silver is alloyed with other metals. It will still look appealing and high-value, so this should not be a concern for potential buyers.
- Hypoallergenic – Sterling silver is a prime choice for people who have allergies when they wear costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is made with lower-cost metals that rust and tarnish quickly.
We understand the frustration, so if you keep getting inflammation from wearing costume jewelry, the cost-effective alternative is to switch to more hypoallergenic sterling silver.
- Low Maintenance – Unless you have raw gems on your sterling silver jewelry, this precious metal is one of the easiest to clean and care for, compared to gold and platinum.
Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?
Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing. This is why manufacturers often use additional elements to reduce the occurrence of tarnishing and alloying silver with copper.
For example, some manufacturers may use zinc, silvadium, and germanium to reduce tarnishing further. Of course, these additional components can only delay the tarnishing. Without proper silver care and cleaning, all types of silver will show signs of patina and tarnishing.
How To Prevent Sterling Silver From Tarnishing
Tarnishing may cause some people annoying, but it is easy to solve if you know how to clean it out.
Tarnishing is a type of light corrosion that occurs after silver interacts with compounds in the air. It is not precisely like rusting, but close. After a while, black layer is formed on top of metal that become patina. Subsequently, it gives people a clue as to how old jewelry is.
The best way to prevent tarnishing in sterling silver is by cleaning silver jewelry after wearing them. Use warm water, gentle soap, and a brush to remove dirt and grime.
This regular cleaning should rid the sterling silver of oils and salts that accelerate the corrosion. You may also use an ultrasonic cleaner to help reduce tarnishing. Pair your jewelry with a gentle cleansing solution that has no corrosive ingredients.