Sterling Silver vs Silver: What’s the Difference?

Sterling Silver vs Silver: What's the Difference

Did you know that silver costs $15.68 per ounce?

Most people think that silver is the same as sterling silver. But the truth is that these two are distinct metals with their make-ups and prices. If you haven’t differentiated between the two before, you might not know what to look out for.

Don’t feel discouraged yet.

With this guide, you’ll learn about the differences between sterling silver vs. silver. That way, you’ll know which material fits your desires more. Keep reading and learn more:

Pure Silver

In the periodic table, Silver has the symbol Ag, which comes from its Latin equivalent, “Argentum.” Silver items have a long history as a symbol of prosperity. It’s even more so when your jewelry is pure silver.

Chemical Makeup

For an item to be silver, it must be as close as it gets to purity. It means that your jewelry is pure silver if it has at least 99.9% elemental silver as its material. It’s almost impossible to achieve 100% purity since the remaining 0.01% is from trace elements.

Silver Uses

Because of its chemical makeup, pure silver is soft, making it hard to shape. This makes it less ideal when used for items with specific shapes. It also applies if you intend to use the item daily.

With its softness, pure silver won’t have the durability enjoyed by other metals. It can bend without difficulty, meaning misshaping it won’t take a lot of force. This attribute is what makes it reserved exclusively for manufacturing fine jewelry.

Tarnishing

Despite its purity, silver can also get tarnished. It means gasses in the air can react with this element. This will cause it to become discolored, faded, and form a layer of “dirt” on top.

Stamp

Because of its value, fine silver has marker stamps to let you know its purity level. In most cases, you’ll encounter the following stamps:

  • 999
  • .999
  • 9

When you see these indicators, you’ll know it’s fine silver. If you want trinkets made from this material, check out my favorite place to buy jewelry. You’re likely to find one that suits your fancy and more.

Sterling Silver

Fine silver is as pure as the element can get. That’s why sterling silver has a lower purity level, but not by much. Regardless, it can pass off as pure silver at first glance because their differences are more subtle.

Chemical Makeup

Unlike its pure counterpart, sterling silver is a type of metal alloy. It means sterling silver combines with other metals. It’s 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% composed of either copper, zinc, or some other metal.

Sterling Silver Uses

Adding other metals into the mix makes sterling silver more durable. It’s stronger and easier to shape, that’s why it’s a great metal to make jewelry, silverware, platters, and other silver-plated items. The last item is often an item made using another metal with a thin layer of silver on top.

Sterling silver has more uses than fine silver because of its added durability. That means using it every day won’t damage or dent it. Unlike fine silver, heavy use won’t cause it to easily wear and tear.

Tarnishing

The only drawback of sterling silver is it tarnishes easier. The reason it’s more prone to tarnishing is because of the presence of other metals within. The top culprits are copper, zinc, and nickel, which tarnish easier than pure silver.

Stamp

Like fine silver, sterling silver items like jewelry have stamps to indicate its authenticity. It uses these stamps:

  • 925
  • 5
  • .925

In some cases, sterling silver items have an “ss” stamp on it instead. When this happens, rest easy because it’s real.

How to Test Silver

If you aren’t sure what type of silver your jewelry is, you have lots of tests at your disposal. For example, you can use a soft white cloth to rub it. If you find black marks on the cloth after finishing it, the material used on your trinket is likely sterling silver.

Why Use Sterling Silver Instead of Fine Silver

Using a less pure piece of silver jewelry might seem counterintuitive, but the truth is that sterling silver has several benefits. The most important one is its cost since the purity accounts for the higher price tags. But as mentioned before, sterling silver looks as good while maintaining affordability.

Another thing you must consider is durability. Sterling silver is more robust because of the alloys added to reinforce it. If you choose this over pure silver, you’ll have a timeless piece that lasts much longer.

Sterling silver’s added metals make it easier to shape compared to the soft fine silver. That means if you want custom-made silver jewelry, the choice of what to use is clear. You have more options with sterling silver when considering designs and aesthetics.

How to Care for Your Silver Items

Regardless of whether you picked sterling silver or pure silver, maintaining them is your top priority. That’s why you must take some simple precautions to prolong their lifespan. It’s especially when you plan to make it last long enough to become antiques.

If you’re maintaining pure silver items, you need extra care when handling it. Again, its softness and lack of durability make it tedious to maintain. It means avoiding overuse or rough handling to make it last longer.

No matter what silver type you pick, ensure its storage is a dark place. Avoid exposing them to air and water since this makes them tarnish and rust. If you want your sterling silver rings to look pretty, clean them using a soft cloth and anti-tarnish liquids.

Take note, the key to maintaining your silver items is consistency. That’s why you must do regular cleaning and use a consistent environment to store them.

Sterling Silver vs. Silver: Learn More Today!

These are the difference you must look out for when comparing sterling silver vs. silver. Use this to know what you’re getting from your jewelry purchases.

Of course, there’s a lot more to learn when it comes to jewelry and silver. To get all the information you need, feel free to keep reading our in-depth guides today!

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