Sterling Silver nuggets before being melted to form into jewelllery...
We're often asked about the terms we use to describe our jewellery, The terms silver, sterling silver and silver plated are bandied about a lot, but what do they mean ? We've put together this short blog post to clarify some of the confusion around the terms silver, sterling silver, fine silver and silver 925 - We hope you enjoy reading it...
Silver when it is mined from the ground is known as pure silver – it has an actual silver content of 99.9% which I think we can all agree is pretty close to as pure as can be. However, there’s a slight problem with using this pure silver to make jewellery – its too soft ! So pure silver is mixed with other metals to make its harder.
When pure silver is mixed with copper it becomes harder and can be used for jewellery making, among other things. Usually, sterling silver has a purity of 92.5%, meaning that 7.5% of the alloy is made of copper or another metal (usually nickel or zinc).
Although sterling silver is more durable than pure silver, the additional metals in the alloy make sterling silver more prone to tarnishing. Tarnishing occurs when the copper, nickel, zinc or other mixtures in sterling silver react with oxygen and other elements in the air.
Often, sterling silver items are plated with a thin layer of pure silver to improve the shine of the piece which confusingly is not to be confused with items marked as ‘sterling silver plated’ which means a base metal (not silver) is simply plated with a layer of sterling silver which will wear off after some time.
Fine silver is stamped with marks such as 999, 99.9 or .999, indicating how much silver the piece contains per hundred or thousand parts.
Sterling silver made in the U.K. is marked 925, .925 or 92.5. Jewellery with lower purity is not considered sterling silver by U.K. standards.
According to the oxford English Dictionary the word Sterling is most probably derived from the old English word Steorling which meas with or like a little star – early Norman coins apparently had small stars imprinted on them, which I kinda like.
Silver is used in the making of so many things today that you wouldn’t expect such as…. Batteries, dentistry, LED chips, medicine, nuclear reactors (yes, really) photography and touch screens to name just a few… oh and my personal favourite – Indian sweets.
Silver really is an indispensable metal !