How Much Silver is in Sterling Silver?
Even sterling silver is made up of silver that includes different metals. That doesn't make it any less desirable, however. Click here to learn how much silver is in sterling silver.
Keyword(s): how much silver is in sterling silver
Back in the 1600's, it was common for people to bring their own eating utensils to a dinner party.
Owning a silver spoon signaled to others that you were a member of a certain class, who could afford such luxuries.
That's why we use expressions like "being born with a silver spoon" or being served something "on a silver platter."
Silver is synonymous with wealth and prosperity.
But what about sterling silver?
What exactly is sterling silver made of, and how valuable is it?
Keep reading to find out how much silver is in sterling silver, and why it's such a great investment.
The Science Behind How Much Silver is in Sterling Silver
Silver is the 47th element on the period table. Its Latin symbol is Ag, and it is found throughout the world, buried in the earth's crust.
The problem with straight silver is that it's very soft in its naturally occurring state. Metalsmiths quickly learned that crafting jewelry and home goods out of pure silver was not practical because they just wouldn't last.
That's where metal alloys come in.
An alloy is basically a mixture of two or more types of metals, where the metals are heated to a liquid and then poured together.
Sterling silver is an alloy made mostly of silver - 92.5% silver to be exact.
The other 7.5% is made of other metals, copper most commonly. Mixing the silver with that little bit of copper makes it strong and durable enough to withstand the test of time.
Sterling Silver Dates Back to the 11th Century
When and where people first started using sterling silver isn't entirely clear, but we do know that it was being used to mint coins in England during the 11th century.
The Norman Penny was issued by William the Conqueror in 1083, and some of the first designs of the coin included two little stars above the king's shoulders.
The Old English word steorling means "like a little star" and it's possible that this is where the expression sterling silver came from.
Sterling silver was also used as currency in the New World of North America, and silversmiths made all manner of valuable goods from the alloy, including tableware, perfume bottles, medical equipment, musical instruments, and jewelry.
Today sterling silver is one of the most commonly used metals in high-quality jewelry, with some people favoring it over white gold, its closest competitor.
How Can You Tell if Something is Sterling Silver?
Any reputable jeweler will be able to help you identify if something is sterling silver.
All sterling silver pieces should be stamped with some type of hallmark to show that it's the real deal. Some of the most commonly used hallmarks are .925, sterling silver, sterling, ster, or even just ss.
This doesn't mean that every sterling silver piece will have a marking, especially if you are buying something handmade or one-of-a-kind.
In that case, there are some other ways you can find out whether the piece is sterling silver, such as holding it up to a magnet. Sterling silver should NOT be magnetic.
Another helpful technique is the ice test. Silver conducts heat or cold very quickly, so if you place an ice cube on a real piece of sterling silver, it should get cold right away, and the coldness should spread throughout the entire object.
Above all else, you want to only do business with jewelers you can trust. They're the ones who be able to help you best identify whether something is sterling silver, and how much it is worth.
Are There Any Drawbacks of Sterling Silvery?
There are many reasons why sterling silver is a great choice when buying jewelry - it's versatile, durable, timeless, less expensive than gold, and perfect for people who can only wear hypoallergenic metals.
But it does have some downsides. The number one reason that some people decide to steer clear of sterling silver is because of how easily it can tarnish.
Silver on its own doesn't react much to other elements, but when it's combined with copper it becomes sensitive to compounds that exist in the air and water.
It's because of this reason that many jewelry companies are turning to other metals in addition to copper, such as platinum and zinc, to help prevent the alloy from tarnishing.
The good news is that tarnishing is not permanent, and with the proper care, keeping your sterling silver in perfect condition is doable.
Caring for Your Sterling Silver
Armed with the right knowledge, it isn't too difficult to keep your sterling silver jewelry in great shape.
Follow these simple guidelines to keep it looking flawless:
- Put it away whenever you're not wearing it - store it in an airtight, low-humidity environment
- Always keep it dry! Moisture is the enemy of sterling silver
- Wear it regularly - the oils on your skin can help to prevent tarnishing
- Wipe it off before storing it
- Clean it as soon as you notice any tarnishing
There are a lot of different cleaning techniques for getting rid of tarnish, and you'll have to find the one that works best for you.
Some people like to use the old school method of polishing their sterling silver using elbow grease, a soft cloth, and precious metal cleaner.
Others prefer using warm water with some dish soap, then carefully scrubbing it clean with tools like cotton swabs or baby toothbrushes.
There are also a number of polishing creams on the market, designed specifically for sterling silver, but be careful that you're buying a high-quality product with a good reputation.
Sterling Silver is a Smart Investment
Now that you've learned how much silver is in sterling silver, you're ready to move onto the next phase in your jewelry research: the shopping phase.
If you're at a place in your life where you're ready to upgrade your jewelry collection to more high-quality, long-lasting pieces, then sterling silver is a great way to go.
Sterling silver is timeless; it will never go out of style.
To learn more about this classic material, or other elegant jewelry options, take a look at our blog.