History of Sterling Silver
Silver jewelry has been a staple in the lives of mankind since humans discovered the versatility of silver and the many uses it has. Silver has been used for functional and aesthetic purposes. In times of old, silver was used to create flatware and armor to protect soldiers on their way into battle. Silver jewelry was later created and used by Phoenician and Egyptian citizens desiring attractive and convenient pieces to add to their jewelry collections. Over time silver has been used to create flatware, decorative art, coins, dental fillings, jewelry and more.
Silver is produced in many different areas, though the highest concentrations of silver output come from Mexico and Peru.
One of the reasons sterling silver jewelry is so popular is its affordability and versatility. Sterling silver can be crafted into many different jewelry items including charms, rings and chains. Silver jewelry is often mistaken for other more precious metals including white gold and platinum.
Common Types of Silver
There are many different types of silver that can be used to create sterling silver jewelry. Silver is considered one of the precious metals along with its cousins gold, platinum and titanium.
Fine Silver – this is silver in its most natural state, when it is considered 99% pure. Often this type of silver is too soft to create ordinary products and is almost liquid in form. Usually silver has to be mixed with other metal alloys in order to create jewelry and household wear.
Sterling Silver – sterling is a mixture of fine silver and other metal alloys. The silver is considered about 92.5% pure. Sterling is usually combined with approximately 7.5% copper to make the jewelry more long lasting and durable. Sterling silver jewelry is usually marked on the inside with a “925”, indicative of its purity. Sterling silver jewelry made of just the right combination of silver and metal allows a jeweler to create a long lasting, durable piece that is shiny and brilliant enough to be mistaken for more expensive precious metals. Sterling silver is more likely to tarnish over time because of the presence of copper; however this relatively mild side effect can be minimized through proper care. By consistently cleaning your silver jewelry you’ll never even notice anything other than a beautiful shine and luster.
Silver Plating – plating occurs when a base metal such as nickel is covered with a layer of pure silver. This is often one of the most durable forms of silver, and is usually much less expensive than sterling silver because the percentage of pure silver in the jewelry is quite low. Most base metals need a re-coat of pure silver every few years to maintain a shiny outer coat and to prevent the base metal from peaking through the coating.
Nickel Silver – nickel silver is a combination of nickel, copper and zinc that is not actually silver, but resembles silver. It is an inexpensive and popular item that can be used to create look-alike jewelry.
Vermeil – this form of silver was popular in the eighteenth century. Silver is plated in gold, providing a polished and expensive looking custom piece of jewelry.