It is important that you understand the difference between sterling silver and pure silver so when you buy silver jewellery next time, you know exactly what deal works here. Let us understand more about the difference between pure silver and Sterling silver.
What is Pure silver?
Pure Silver which is also known as fine silver is very malleable and soft. It can break and twist easily and wears out fast. It consists of 99.9% silver and 1% trace elements. It is not a jewellery metal because of its soft texture. It can lose shape because of this reason. To get rid of this problem, silver is combined with other metals to make stronger alloys. Because of the high purity of pure silver, fine silver is often mixed with harder metals to give hardness to the metal. Pure Silver is combined with metals like copper, nickel, zinc and other mixtures.
What is Sterling silver?
One alloy of silver is sterling silver, it comprises of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of other metals, majorly copper, nickel or zinc. This is the reason why Sterling Silver is also known as 925 Silver. This standard was set up by the USA established in the 1300s and popularized in the 1900s. Sterling silver unlike silver is much more durable and is used worldwide in the jewelry business. Copper is one of the most important metals in the alloy. There is also a coin silver, which is an alloy of lower purity. It contains 90% or less silver.
Tarnishing and Plating
Sterling silver is more prone to tarnish than pure silver as the alloy mix carries different metals with different structures of reactions. Copper, nickel or zinc might react with oxygen in the air or any other substance if in contact with. This is the reason why often sterling silver is coated with pure silver. It avoids discoloring the metal and tarnishing. But you need to be careful when written, ‘Coated with sterling silver’ because that means that the product is copper or nickel which is plated in Sterling Silver.
Identifying Sterling Silver and Pure Silver
You will know if the silver is real or not by looking at the stamp marks such as 999, 99.9 or .999, it indicates how much silver the piece contains per hundred or thousand parts. Sterling silver made in the US is marked 92.5, 925, .925. Jewellery with lower purity is not considered sterling silver by US standards.
In other parts of the world however, a little difference in the purity scale is considered okay, it is still marketed as silver or sterling silver.
It is important thus, that you know to check if the silver is good enough or not. There are various techniques of knowing this if you find some problems with the stamp. It is important that you enquire about the jewellery you are about to buy.
1. Rub the jewelry using a soft, white cloth
If you find any back marks on the cloth then you can be sure of one thing that the piece is made of sterling silver. The air to which the product is exposed causes oxidation. This is the reason silver turns black over time and requires regular polish.
2. The Nitric acid test
Nitric acid has no effect on 925 sterling silver, however, if put on some other metal, the metal loses its color. If the jeweler is selling you the correct product, he would have no objection to this test. Wear gloves for safety before testing and move away if the jeweler does not agree for the test because he might be lying. If fake, the sterling silver would appear green while the real thing would appear creamy.
3. The Smell test
Real Sterling silver has no odor. If it does smell, it means that too much copper is added in the alloy and silver content is less. Copper smells in a very pungent fashion and you will immediately get to know the smell.
4. Use the Magnet test
This is very basic and easy to do. Take a magnet and place it near the sterling silver product. If there is no tension it means that the product is real if there is an even a bit of tension, you must take it that the sterling silver is not real. Many times, iron is added in the alloy to make the product more sturdy and unoriginal, to avoid such frauds don’t forget to keep a check.
5. Real Silver Jewellery always has markings like “925”, “Ster”, “925”, “92.5”, “.925” or Sterling Silver in the edge or at very a very hidden side. If you don’t see any such marking, be wary of the product.
The durability of Sterling silver vs Pure silver
Sterling silver is very durable owing to the alloy mix, copper, nickel, and zinc. It can be easily polished and the scuffs and scratches can be smoothed away and restored to its original luster. It can last a lifetime with careful use. Repairing and resizing sterling silver is very cost-effective and relatively easier than other metals.
Pure Silver, on the other hand, cannot be used in jewellery making as it is extremely soft and malleable. It can break and bend easily. Pure silver like pure gold is worthless in the jewelry business. However, alloys of silver like Sterling Silver are amongst very popular choices across the world.
Are both these metals hypoallergenic?
Pure Silver is hypoallergenic and does not irritate the skin at all. Sometimes, however, the metals in the alloy of sterling silver can cause irritation of the skin to some people. It is wrongly attributed to silver nut, in reality, it is nickel which is a common allergen. If your skin is highly sensitive, you might want to contact your health expert first before buying anything in silver.