We see and hear “sterling silver this” and “sterling silver that” almost every day, yet quite a few of us don’t understand what the term actually means. Does “sterling” mean “pure”? Does sterling silver jewelry come from a geographically specific certain part of the world? Is sterling the same, better or worse than pure silver? And what the heck does that stamp on the back of my necklace mean when it says “.925”?
By definition and international agreement “sterling” silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% some other material – usually copper. The 92.5% is why jewelry is often stamped with the numbers 925 or .925.
So you’ve gone and mixed copper with my silver – tell me why exactly. And is it still as good as pure silver?
Ok, so it’s obviously not 100% pure, but there is a good reason as to why mashing a bit of copper in your silver is beneficial. Pure silver tarnishes after a few years being left out in the open. And I don’t mean out doors in the back yard, exposed to the elements like a beat up old car. I mean the antique wedding silver passed down from your grandmother, lovingly kept for those memorable occasions. Them spoons aren’t as shiny as they used to be, and they’ve been stored inside, usually somewhere special, exposed only to the air you breathe. Pure silver oxidises quickly leaving it a dirty brown colour – not sexy. That 7.5% copper slows down the oxidisation process, and keeps your silver…well, silver longer.
Also, pure silver is a super soft metal, breaking or bending easily. Adding a more sturdy metal like copper to the mix, basically means your beautiful silver jewelry will last a lot longer, and look nicer for years to come. Adding that other metal makes it more durable, and therefore more maleable and easier for metal smiths, jewelers and crafts men to handle… manipulating them into those intricate designs that we all so like. So sterling silver – although not pure, is actually the better option when choosing jewelry.
When buying your next bauble or trinket for your loved one, whilst trying to claw yourself out of the doghouse, or maybe just being that genuinely nice person you are – committing those random acts of kindness – hopefully you will have a better understanding of what Sterling Silver means – even if that sales person hawking it to you, has absolutely no idea what they are talking about.