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Silver and the difference between Pure Silver and Sterling Silver Jewelry


Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum). It is a soft, white, lustrous transition metal found in the Earth's crust in the pure, free elemental form ("native silver"), as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite. Silver has long been valued as a precious metal. Silver items have long been known as symbols of wealth and prosperity. This is true whether you own sterling silver or pure silver, since most times you can't tell the status of the silver at a quick glance.



Any item described as pure silver, or also as fine silver, are as purely silver as you can get: it's made of 99.9% pure elemental silver. It will contain very few trace elements (only 0.01%), but it's essentially pure silver (hence the name). Pure silver is quite soft and difficult to shape properly, which makes it hard to use to make items that require daily use or specific shapes. Because of this, pure silver is not generally used to make fine and delicate jewelry items. This softness also means that fine silver items aren't as durable. They can be easily bent or damaged. Silver can also tarnish. This means that the gasses in the air react with silver, which causes discoloring, fading, and what looks like a "dirty" layer on the top of silver products. 
Fine silver is also usually stamped with a marker to indicate that it is indeed fine silver. This stamp is usually "999" or ".999" or "99.9" to indicate that it is 99.9% silver, as fine silver must be to be considered fine silver.


Sterling silver is what's known as a metal alloy. This means that sterling silver is a combination of metals instead of just one single metal (like with pure silver, for example). Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloy. This 7.5% is usually made of copper or zinc. 
The addition of these other metals makes sterling silver significantly stronger and more durable. This allows it to be used to make a number of other things including:
  • Jewelry
  • Silverware
  • Plates
  • Platters
  • Coffee Sets
Notice that the list of uses for sterling silver is a lot longer than the one for fine silver. That's because the added durability that sterling silver has means it won't be damaged or dented by everyday use and wear and tear like fine silver is. 
Sterling silver is also stamped to indicate that it is true sterling silver. These stamps are usually "925" or "92.5" or ".925" to indicate the purity of the silver within it. However, you can also sometimes see "ss" as a sterling silver stamp as well.

Sterling silver is much more durable compared to fine silver because of the added metal alloys. This can help your piece last and stay looking the best it possibly can for longer. Sterling silver is easier to shape than the soft and malleable fine silver, so you'll be able to find more options made of sterling silver vs silver.


You can make both pure silver and sterling silver items last a lot longer by taking a few simple precautions.
For both pure and sterling silver, store it in a dark place away from air and water exposure. The best way to prevent tarnishing is to store the jewellery in a clean, dry airtight container, like a plastic zip lock bag or Tupperware. You can also clean your silver items with anti-tarnish liquids and a soft cloth.
Leila Sheikha

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