The beauty of sterling silver is undisputed. It has the gleaming, reflective qualities that make silver so popular for a wide variety of items, particularly jewelry, flatware, and decorative pieces like picture frames. If you inherit antique silver you may just think it is pure silver. That might not be true. It could be sterling silver. There are some differences between sterling silver vs. silver that you should be aware of. Those differences matter. They affect the value and composition of sterling silver. In this article we will explore five sterling silver facts that you should know.
Sterling Silver Is an Alloy
The first thing you should know about Sterling silver is not the same as pure of fine silver. It is alloy. An alloy is a mixture of different metals. In the case of Sterling silver, it has a base of silver, usually around 92.5% silver. Then the remaining 7.5% of the Sterling silver can be a combination of other metals. Copper is the most frequently used metal in that mixture, but it can be a number of other metals and combinations of metals.
Sterling Silver vs. Silver: A Stronger Alternative
Because silver has such beauty and value, many people ask why on earth anyone would want to “sully” it by adding any other metals to it. There is actually a very good reason. Pure silver is a soft metal. Overtime it doesn’t hold its shape very well. It is extremely prone to dents and scratches. It can be a lovely metal for items that will just for display but it doesn’t last a long when used in items like jewelry and flatware that are handled and used often. The solution to that inherent softness is to add a come copper or other metals that make the silver stronger and more durable while retaining its beauty.
You May Notice An Assayer’s Mark on Sterling Silver
Since Sterling silver is an alloy, it may have an assayer’s mark. This can give you some insight into the origins of your antique silver. The assayer’s mark is often an animal or other symbol that signifies where the sterling silver was manufactured. It also often contains a number that tells you the purity of the silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver so the marking will be 925.
The Value of Your Sterling Silver Will Vary
Being an alloy and not a pure precious metal metals means that Sterling silver isn’t considered an “investment metal”. In spite of that, the value of Sterling silver is tied to the value of pure silver due to its high silver content. For that reason, you should take the time to research the price of silver if you decide to sell your sterling silver jewelry, flatware, or other items made of sterling silver. That is the best way to get an idea of what your antique silver is worth.
Sterling Silver Will Tarnish- Store it Right
Anyone who has ever owned anything silver knows that it will tarnish. You probably already know that antique silver needs to be polished on a regular basis. That is true for Sterling silver as well. You should also be aware that how you store your Sterling silver also makes a difference. Humidity really causes silver to tarnish. If you store Sterling silver in jewelry box, display case, or other enclosed place you should include the sort of desiccate (or salt) packets that are used to absorb humidity. Also, if you aren’t using or displaying your Sterling silver item, you can use jeweler’s cloths or polyurethane bags for long-term storage. They prevent exposure to oxygen and the process of oxidation that causes tarnish.