The difference between sterling silver and pure silver is that sterling silver is only 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. As pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry crafting, jewelers will often add a small quantity of other metals to strengthen the silver. The result is sterling silver, the primary material used for silver jewelry. You can tell if something is real silver using an acid test.
WHAT IS PURE SILVER?
Pure silver, also referred to as fine silver, has actual silver content of 99.9%.
However, because of its high purity, fine silver is too soft to use in jewelry crafting, and hence is often mixed with other metals to make it harder.
WHAT IS STERLING SILVER?
Sterling silver is a mixture of pure silver and a small amount of other metals, added to make pure silver more durable and less soft for jewelry making. Most often, sterling silver has a purity of .925, meaning that it contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper plus other metals (usually copper, aluminium or zinc).
There is also the so-called coin silver, which is an alloy of lower purity: It usually contains 90% or less silver.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SILVER AND STERLING SILVER
So what is the difference between silver and sterling silver? There are 2 observable differences between sterling silver and silver that you should care about:
1. Pure silver is much softer than sterling silver, and is often not used for jewelry.
2. Although sterling silver is more durable than pure silver, the metals added make sterling silver more prone to tarnishing. This is because these metals may react with oxygen and other elements from the environment and corrode.
Generally if you are buying precious silver jewelry, they are almost always sterling silver. Hence, an item advertized as sterling silver could have a justifiably higher price as they are as close to pure silver as you can get.
However, the same cannot be said about silver-plated items, and this kind of silver is one you should be more wary of misleading marketing.
WHAT IS SILVER PLATED?
Silver plated jewelry has an extremely thin layer of silver (measured in microns) covering a base metal, commonly copper, brass, white metal, or nickel. The layer of silver is very thin, so it will also wear off with time and usage.
As a result, people with nickel allergy may develop itchy skin rash wearing silver-plated nickle. Unlike sterling silver, the tarnish on silver-plated jewelry is, most of the time, irreversible. Moreover, this type of jewelry has little resale value unless they are rare or collectible items.
As such, it is important that you know how to tell if something is real silver.
A NOTE ON VERMEIL
Vermeil has become a popular choice for jewelry designers to get the gold look, while lowering price without compromising the quality of precious jewelry. Unlike silver plated jewelry, it is a worthy investment as the silver is easily recoverable.
Vermeil is perfect for the budget-conscious who are looking for a cheaper alternative to a solid gold piece without compromising on the look, weight and value of precious metals.
SHOP OUR RANGE OF 100% STERLING SILVER JEWELRY
Did you enjoy my series on silver purity? In my upcoming blog post, I will let you know all about how to tell if silver is real. If you think there is a topic I should explore, please leave comment below or send me an email at [email protected].