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What Is The Difference Between Silver And Sterling Silver?

Have you ever walked into a jeweller or shopped online and wondered why jewellery made from pure silver is so hard to come by?  There is actually quite a significant difference between pure silver and sterling silver jewellery, including their make-up, lifespans, care techniques and the price. 

We reveal why jewellery is generally not made from pure silver alone…

Pure silver Fine silver coin on blue background

Pure silver or fine silver is made up of 99.9% of pure elemental silver. The 0.01% contains only a few trace elements, and as a result, makes pure silver very soft. It is also very difficult to shape properly due to this, so rings or other types of jewellery with specific shapes are very difficult to produce using pure silver alone. 

The softness of pure silver causes it to lack durability, allowing it to easily be bent, misshapen or damaged, therefore pure silver is only really used in rare cases of producing fine jewellery.

Any fine silver jewellery that is produced will always have a stamp to indicate that it is not combined with other metals, by using “999” or “.999”, replicating the 99.9% of silver contained within it. 

Sterling silver

Sterling silver isn’t quite as pure as pure silver, containing other elements that make it known as a metal alloy. This means that there is a combination of metals instead of one metal, like pure silver for example. This is what you will most likely find within jewellery shops.

Where pure silver is made up of 99.9% of pure elemental silver, sterling silver is usually made from 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloy. This extra metal is often made up of copper or zinc.

These additional metals allow sterling silver to be much more durable and stronger, enabling it to be made for a number of jewellery items, as well as silverware, platters, plates and silver-plated items. 

Items that are listed as “silver-plated” are made from a main piece of metal with a thin layer of sterling silver “plated” on top of the item. 

You’ll find that items that contain sterling silver are stamped with “925" or "92.5" or ".925". Again, this informs you of the percentage of silver used, indicating that this is a metal alloy.

Tarnishing Silver jewellery tarnishing

Both pure silver and sterling silver undergo a chemical reaction known as “tarnishing”. You may have come across discolouration before with any silver jewellery you own, and this is due to it reacting to sulfer-containing gasses in the air, producing a surface layer of tarnish. 

It is known that sterling silver is more prone to this chemical reaction as the metal alloys such as copper, zinc and nickel are easily tarnished, therefore this reaction is faster and happens more easily.

Why should you use sterling silver instead of pure silver?

We have already established the one main compelling factor behind using sterling silver due to its durability, however pure silver is more expensive than sterling due to its higher percentage of purity. Luckily, sterling silver still looks as good as its purer form, therefore this is the much preferred choice.

If you’re looking for some stunning sterling silver jewellery, then visit us in our Margate or Ramsgate stores here at Cuttings, or get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team today.


What Is The Difference Between Silver And Sterling Silver?

Posted by admin on August 12, 2020