Silver vs sterling sliver – many people don’t know the difference. Furthermore, most people don’t know that silver jewelry is not made out of pure silver. Even though people use the terms silver and sterling silver interchangeably, they don’t always mean the same thing. In this article, you will discover the difference between silver vs sterling silver. You will also learn how you can recognize silver jewelry like rings, chain necklaces or a pair of studs.

Silver vs Sterling Silver – What is Pure Silver?

Pure silver, also known as fine silver is made out of 99% pure silver. Sterling silver has 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5% other metals. The pure silver is too soft to craft silver jewelry. As a result, jewelry makers mix the fine gold with other metals to increase its strength and hardness.  The other metals can be copper, iron or steel, but they only represent around 7.5-8% of the entire jewelry piece. Doing this will ensure that your silver ring will not bend at the first handshake and that your silver chain necklace will not break under its own weight. But sterling silver is also great to make various items, such as coffee sets, forks, spoons, knives, and many more. You can recognize pure silver by the hallmarks .999, 999 or 99.9.

Silver vs Sterling Silver – What is Sterling Silver?

Just as we mentioned before, sterling silver is not pure silver, but actually, an alloy in which you can also find copper, iron or other metals. The result is a compound that is more durable and stronger. As sterling silver has 92.5% fine silver there is not a big difference between how pure silver and sterling silver look. However, because the alloy contains 7.5% other metals sterling silver can lose its luster. Pure silver does not tarnish. The tarnish is a reaction of the alloy with the oxygen and some other elements in the air.

To test your sterling silver jewelry’s tarnish tendency, you can rub your fingers very tightly over the jewelry piece. In sterling silver, you will find some dull smudges on the skin. You can keep your sterling silver studs, rings and necklaces shiny by cleaning their surface regularly with a fine cloth, microfiber towel or cotton.  One way to recognize sterling silver is by the 925 hallmark which you can see on the inside of a silver ring or on the back of a silver chain necklace, studs, bracelet, or other types of jewelry.

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You should know that sterling silver jewelry and other items will start to tarnish if you don’t use them for a prolonged period. But some jewelry pieces, such as sterling silver studs and necklaces can become more tarnished because of sweat. Rings are usually the silver jewelry that is hardest to tarnish because as you wash your hands, you also clean the tarnish away. Silver was used in the past to make silver coins, which have less than 90% pure silver in the composition. This type of silver is known as the “coin silver.

Silver vs Sterling Silver – What they are used for

In general, silver is used to create silverware items and fine jewelry because it is a lustrous and very ductile metal. Furthermore, one of the most important characteristics of silver is that it remains stable in water and oxygen. However, it can get tarnished when you expose it to certain compounds like sulfur, which are present in the air or certain waters.  This black tarnish is known as the black sulfide layer.

Silver jewelry is also used in the fashion and photographic industry. If you look in a fashion catalog you will see that most models have either gold or silver jewelry to make the products more appealing. The photography industry uses 35% of the silver products.

Silver has many uses because it is a non-toxic metal. In the past, silver was used to promote hygiene. The medical utensils were crafted out of silver and people used to use silver cups, plates, forks, knives, and spoons because silver is an antibacterial metal.

Silver vs Sterling Silver – Plated sterling silver

A lot of jewelry today and silverware are plated with just a thin layer of silver to make them look shinier and more appealing. You can recognize the silver-plated jewelry by the marking “sterling silver plated”. The base for silver-plated jewelry is usually another metal, such as nickel, copper, bronze, etc.

Silver vs Sterling Silver – Final Summary

Sterling silver is just a silver alloy which contains 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent other metals (copper, iron, nickel, etc.). Fine silver has 99.9% pure silver and is usually more expensive than sterling silver. Sterling silver is also very sensitive to water and air and it can get tarnished on the surface. Pure silver, just like gold, does not tarnish even if it comes in contact with water or air.

Now you know the difference between silver vs sterling silver so that you can make an informed choice. At Ana Luisa, we have beautiful limited-edition silver jewelry collections. Visit our online jewelry shop and choose your next favorite silver jewelry piece.

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Ruxandra is a fashion blogger who teaches fashion stumped twenty to thirty somethings how to shop their jewelry boxes for polished new ensembles. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Fashionista, Nylon, and Refinery29.