Friday, April 10, 2009

 What is sterling silver?

Have you ever wondered what "sterling silver" exactly is? And what is the difference between "silver" and "sterling silver"? In this post, I'll try to explain terms relating "sterling silver" and "silver" in the most human-friendly way.

What is Sterling Silver?
Sterling Silver is made from "92.5% fine silver" + "7.5% alloy". That's why sometimes people interchangeably call Sterling Silver as :
- 92.5% Silver
- 925 silver
- 925 Sterling Silver.
Actually they all refer to the same thing. So,
What is Alloy?
Alloy is basically one or a mixture of metals. Alloy is usually mixed with other element (like silver) to create strength.

Raw Silver Nuggets

What is Fine Silver?
Fine silver is a 99.9% silver. So it's the purest form of silver. 99.9% silver is usually used in a form of pure silver wire. They are usually sold by foot as silversmithing supplies.

So why is "Sterling Silver" more popular than "Fine Silver"?
Fine Silver is not popular simply because it's not practical to use for making jewelry. Like fine gold, fine silver is just too soft for producing large functional objects. That's why people usually alloy fine silver with metals like copper, etc to give it strength (and that becomes sterling silver). Sterling Silver is more popular due to its strength and a long history of its usage as money.

Becoming a smart silver jewelry buyer
You will be a well-educated customer if you recognize the following definitions:

Sterling Silver
(or 92.5% Silver or 925 Silver or 925 Sterling Silver)
Now you know what it is! Congratulations! :-)

Fine Silver Jewelry
Normally, Fine Silver Jewelry simply refers to 'high quality' jewelry and not 99.9% silver jewelry. Fine silver (99.9%) is just too soft to make jewelry.

Silver Plated Jewelry
This means the base of the jewelry is made of metal, not silver. In this case, the metal is surface-covered with silver. That's why the price can be significantly lower for this kind of jewelry.

Rhodium Plated Silver
This means the base of jewelry is made of silver, and coated with "rhodium". Sometimes, platinum or silver jewelry is rhodium plated.

In the case of platinum, it is because rhodium is a bit brighter than platinum, so it is used to enhance the shine. For silver, the reason is different as silver is actually shinier than rhodium. But silver is a much softer metal, and can be scratched very easily. So people are willing to trade a small bit of shine for a better scratch protection.
If you are shopping for a new piece of jewelry in white gold, platinum, or silver, be sure and ask the jeweler if the item has been rhodium plated. Often, customers buy rhodium-plated pieces without realizing it–knowing how your new jewelry was made will help you maintain it properly and enjoy its beauty for years.

To view our Art Ring & Jewelry Designs made of 925 sterling silver, please click here

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In case you love history:

Where did the term "sterling" come from?
Here's the info for you.This term "sterling" and "pound sterling" emerged in England during the 1200s. The word "sterling silver" may have been known first as "easterling silver" which is believed to come from:
-> The Old Norman French, Esterlin (meaning little star) AND
-> The Old English, Stiere (meaning strong, firm, immovable)

Easterling Silver was used to refer to the grade of silver that had originally been used as the local currency in an area of Germany. In payment for English cattle and grain, the German used their local currency which was in the form of 92.5% silver coins. England soon learned that these coins, which they referred to as "the coins of the easterlings", were of a reliably high quality and hardness.


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