Answering your question about Sterling Silver Jewellery

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What is Sterling Silver Jewellery: Your Questions Answered

Sterling silver jewellery has a beautiful shine, but do you understand what sets it apart?

With the variety of metal options to use in jewellery, it can be confusing to know what’s best. Should you invest in a precious metal? Or go for affordability?

At Pag and Mag, we love silver and want to untangle its complexity.

For over 20 years, we’ve helped customers add silver pieces to their collections that they cherish.

This article will focus on sterling silver – what it is, its composition, and why it strikes the perfect balance between value and craftsmanship.

Defining Sterling Silver

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy that consists mainly of silver mixed with other metals to give it more strength and durability. 

An alloy is a metal formed by combining two or more chemical elements, mixing their unique properties.

Traditionally, sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.

This standard is where the term “925 sterling silver” comes from, it shows the metal’s silver content.

The copper is alloyed with pure silver to increase the metal’s hardness and durability.

This perfect blend creates an alloy that maintains silver’s beautiful shine while gaining improved wearability for jewellery and other decorative silver items.

Difference between pure silver and sterling silver

The main difference between sterling silver and pure silver, also known as fine silver, lies in their composition.

Fine silver has a purity of 99.9% (shown as 999), making it very soft and malleable. Unfortunately, this purity makes it unsuitable for most jewellery-making because it’s often prone to damage.

Therefore, sterling silver, with its added strength, becomes a more practical choice for creating durable jewellery pieces.

Is sterling silver real?

One might question, “Is sterling silver real silver?” The answer is yes.

Although it’s an alloy, sterling silver is still categorized as an authentic form of silver because of its significant silver proportion.

The addition of other metals does not diminish its quality but enhances its usability for jewellery and other silver items.

What makes it 92.5% pure silver

The 92.5% pure silver standard is set to balance the durability and workability of the metal.

Pure silver, while beautiful, is quite soft, making it impractical for everyday wear and use.

Alloying it with 7.5% of a harder metal, like copper, creates a metal alloy that is both easy to shape into delicate designs and strong enough to withstand regular use.

It’s this combination that makes sterling silver a choice for jewellery that people love and cherish.

What is Silver Plated Jewellery?

Definition of silver-plated

Silver-plated jewellery involves a base metal such as brass, or copper that is coated with a thin layer of actual silver through a process known as electroplating.

This allows for that beautiful silver shine at a much lower cost. However, silver plate differs significantly from sterling silver in terms of composition and value.

Difference from sterling silver

Sterling silver is a precious metal alloy, with a large percentage being pure silver.

Silver-plated items, on the other hand, have only a surface treatment of silver, which can wear away over time, exposing the base metal underneath.

The silver plating is very thin – typically less than 2 microns thick – so daily wear causes it to gradually rub off, revealing the brass or non-precious base metal.

The lifespan of silver plate is therefore much shorter than sterling silver.

In terms of durability, quality, and value of the metal, sterling silver stands above silver-plated items.

When buying sterling silver jewellery, you’re investing in a piece predominantly made from precious metal, one that holds lasting value compared to a cheap imitation with a temporary shiny appearance.

Durability considerations

It’s crucial to consider the longevity and wear resistance of the jewellery you purchase. 

Sterling silver, with its 92.5% silver content, is much more durable compared to fine silver and significantly more so than silver-plated items.

Although silver-plated jewellery can initially appear similar to sterling silver, it may tarnish and deteriorate due to the thin silver layer wearing off, particularly with daily wear.

Once you have decided to incorporate sterling silver into your jewellery collection, it becomes essential to differentiate between authentic sterling silver and imitations.

Here’s how to ensure you’re buying genuine sterling silver jewellery:

Hallmarks to look for

The quickest way to identify if your item is true sterling silver is to look for stamps with specific hallmarks that indicate its authenticity and silver content.

The most common of these is the “925” stamp or “Sterling,” which signifies that the piece is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals.

Various countries have their unique hallmarking systems, so other numerical marks or symbols might also represent sterling silver.

For example, in some countries, you might see “Ster” or “S925” to indicate 925 sterling silver.

How to test if silver is real

Testing for genuine sterling silver can go beyond looking for the 925 stamp. Here are some methods you can use:

  1. The Magnet Test: Since silver is non-magnetic, if your jewellery is attracted to a magnet, it is likely not real silver.
  2. The Weight Test: Silver has a distinctive, heavyweight compared to base metals. Sterling silver will feel solid and balanced in your hand.
  3. The Sound Test: Tap your silver with a metal object; real sterling silver will emit a high-pitched ring tone that lasts a few seconds.
  4. The Ice Test: Silver conducts heat very rapidly. Placing an ice cube on silver will melt it quicker than on other metals.
  5. The Polishing Cloth Test: When you rub real silver with a polishing cloth, black marks will appear as the cloth picks up tarnish from the surface.

Difference from Nickel Silver or German Silver

  • Nickel silver, also referred to as German silver, is a metal alloy made mostly of nickel and copper, often with additions of zinc. It typically consists of 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc, although this can vary.
  • Despite its misleading name, nickel silver contains no actual silver at all. It earned the moniker “silver” because it has a bright, silvery appearance that looks similar to sterling silver.
  • Nickel silver tarnishes faster than real sterling silver, so its shine fades quicker with wear and exposure to air/moisture.
  • While nickel silver may seem visually similar initially, sterling silver surpasses it in terms of worth, tarnish resistance, metal purity and lifelong durability.

For jewellery, sterling silver is always the wiser investment choice over imitation nickel silver.

Benefits of Sterling Silver Jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery offers a multitude of benefits that make it a favourite among jewellery enthusiasts:

  • More durable than pure silver: The addition of other metals to silver creates a hardier alloy that is better suited for daily wear.
  • Lower cost than solid silver: While still holding considerable value, sterling silver is more affordable than gold and platinum.
  • Stylish for all ages: Its timeless appeal resonates with all generations, and it can be found in both classic and contemporary designs.
  • Less prone to tarnishing: Compared to fine silver, sterling silver’s mixed composition makes it more resistant to tarnishing and when it does tarnish, it’s easy to clean.
  • Hypoallergenic Qualities: Unlike some jewellery metals, sterling silver is hypoallergenic and won’t cause skin irritation, making it ideal for sensitive skin.

Caring for Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Proper care will extend the life and beauty of your sterling silver jewellery. Here are some tips:

  • Best cleaning methods: Use a special silver polishing cloth or mild dish soap with warm water followed by thorough drying.
  • Storing properly to prevent tarnishing: Keep your jewellery in a cool, dry place, ideally in individual anti-tarnish bags or wrapped in a polishing cloth.
  • Avoid Pools/Hot Tubs: Always remove sterling silver jewellery before swimming or soaking in chlorinated pools and hot tubs, as the chemicals can pit and permanently etch the silver.

Why Sterling Silver Jewelry is a Great Choice

Sterling silver jewellery is a great choice and there a few reasons for this:

  • Affordability: It offers the beauty and longevity of precious metal at a fraction of the price of gold and platinum.
  • Delicate, detailed designs: The workability of sterling silver means that intricate patterns are far easier to achieve.
  • Goes with anything!: Whether you’re dressing up or down, the versatility of sterling silver is unmatched.
  • It is long-lasting: With some simple care, your sterling silver will maintain its luminous brilliance and quality for many years.


Sterling silver jewellery has outstanding shine along with affordability and durability – unmatched among other metal jewellery options.

I still fondly remember receiving my first sterling silver bracelet as a timeless keepsake gift for my 18th birthday. I’ve worn that bracelet nearly every day since. It continues to shine beautifully, showing how well-crafted sterling silver withstands the test of time.

When cared for properly, your sterling silver pieces become lasting treasures, passed down for generations while retaining their refined beauty and enduring value.

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