Sterling silver is one of the most ubiquitous precious metals used in jewelry. It’s renowned for its resilience, luster, and utility. Often used in jewelry as a base metal or major component it has a beautiful “silver: appearance that flatters many skin tones. Sterling silver jewelry is a perfect lower cost option for jewelry wearers who still want a precious metal. You can see Sterling silver markings on many classic jewelry pieces.

The Basics:

So, What is Sterling Silver 925?

Sterling silver is a metal alloy created by combining 92.5% pure silver (also known as Ag on the periodic table of elements) with 7.5% other metals, typically copper. We don’t want to get too technical! The industry standard for Sterling silver has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925. But the minimum millesimal fineness of a metal is determined using a system which denotes the purity of silver, gold and platinum alloys by parts per thousand of pure metal by mass in the alloy. This is why you see Sterling silver being stamped .925. 

What is the meaning of sterling? The definition sterling refers to the fineness and quality of the silver. How do you define pure? Pure silver is the element silver. In order to use the precious metal for jewelry pure silver must be blended with a metal alloy. Why is this? Because pure silver is incredibly soft. So, is Sterling silver real? It sure is! 

What does Sterling Silver mean?

Sterling Silver means that the metal blend contains 92.5% pure silver. The reason for creating an alloy out of silver is that in its purest form silver is quite soft. This makes it problematic for jewelry making as it will dent, scratch, and bend easily. Sterling Silver is significantly more durable making for ideal jewelry.

What is 925 Sterling silver?

Sterling silver .925 refers to the metal alloy created by blending pure silver with copper or another metal. Pure silver is non-reactive but blending it with copper makes it more susceptible to change. This means it is prone to tarnishing, so metals other than copper can be used to reduce tarnishing. In the USA all Sterling Silver must be stamped as such.

Benefits of Sterling Silver

While Sterling silver 925 will tarnish with exposure to oxygen it can easily be polished without damaging the metal itself. What makes it so desirable is that even major tarnishing can easily be polished away to reveal a beautiful silver base. It is also lightweight, holds its value in the market, and looks excellent on a diverse range of skin tones.

How do I polish or clean Sterling Silver?

When a silver polishing cloth doesn’t do the trick we have some easy ways to clean your jewelry. If you’re not in a pinch or hoping to wear your jewelry that moment you can use silver jewelry dip, a tarnish remover cream, or heavy duty polishing cloth. You can find them easily online or at your local jeweler. 

If your jewelry is badly tarnished or you’re working with chains and intricate designs you might have to try some creative methods. Here’s one of our favorites that’s even a little bit fun to watch.

Steps to clean at home:

  1. Line a shallow pan with foil. 
  2. Pour boiling water into the pan.
  3. Add 1 part baking soda and 1 part salt to the water. (For small batches of silver jewelry 1-2 tbsp should be sufficient)
  4. Place your silver pieces in the solution on top of the foil.
  5. Allow pieces to soak for up to 15 minutes. Watch the tarnishing disappear!
  6. Remove your jewelry when water has cooled and dry them with a soft cloth.

Now wear them with style and enjoy your new shining silver pieces!

How is Sterling Silver made?

The process is relatively simple. Sterling Silver is made by combining pure silver with a metal alloy. There are many reputable companies who create Sterling silver and sell it to jewelry companies. Potential metal alloys mixed with the pure silver include copper, zinc, or tin. Sometimes Sterling silver will be coated in a layer of Rhodium for extra shine and protection.

Are Sterling Silver earrings hypoallergenic? 

Good news for your ears! The simple answer is yes. Sterling silver is hypoallergenic and nonreactive. Both pure silver and copper (the most common alloy in Sterling Silver) are pure metals which will not create allergic reactions. 

Does Sterling Silver tarnish?

Yes, over time Sterling silver will tarnish because of the presence of copper. However, tarnishing will not ruin your silver pieces. How do you define tarnish? Tarnishing is discoloration on a metal from the exposure to ozone or sulfur. 

Does Sterling Silver rust?

No! Rusting is actually an entirely different process than tarnishing. Only iron truly rusts when it is exposed to oxygen. Rust will ruin iron where tarnishing won’t ruin silver. If you have a silver piece that appears to be rusting it is likely not genuine Sterling silver (check for that .925 stamp).

Can Sterling Silver get wet?

Yes, it can get wet. Water will not ruin Sterling Silver. However, the more often it gets wet the faster it tarnishes. As we’ve covered, tarnishing isn’t actually as bad as it seems. But if you’re not a fan of constantly cleaning and polishing your jewelry then keep it low maintenance by avoiding water when possible. Pro-tip: avoid corrosive agents present in hot tub or ocean water.

Does Sterling Silver go green?

The short answer is yes. The silver isn’t actually turning green. Turning your finger green doesn’t mean your Sterling Silver is fake or poor quality. The metal which turns your finger green is typically copper. As you now know (experts in the making over here) copper is a common metal alloy used in Sterling Silver jewelry. Copper can turn your finger green. However, higher end and good quality Sterling Silver typically won’t react with your skin in this way.

Why does Sterling Silver go black?

When Sterling Silver turns black this is called tarnishing. 925 Sterling Silver naturally tarnishes black over time. Thankfully, cleaning and polishing your Sterling Silver jewelry will return it quickly back to shine. 

What is the price of sterling silver?

The market for .925 Sterling silver changes depending on many factors. It is one of the lowest cost but highest quality precious metals available. Depending on the alloy blend used, thickness, and quality a typical Sterling Silver ring with no embellishments costs around $100. Sterling silver price varies a lot when it’s being sold as jewelry.

Sterling Silver vs Silver

Sterling silver as we’ve learned is actually 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metal alloys like copper. Pure silver is simply too soft to make jewelry out of. Blending pure silver with other metal alloys strengthens the metal and makes it ideal for jewelry.

Sterling Silver vs Stainless Steel

Stainless steel and sterling silver are both alloy metals. They’re both a combination of several other metals. Stainless steel is both corrosion and scratch-resistant. Sterling silver is a more elegant option (in color and feel) for jewelry and is more lightweight compared to stainless steel. Sterling silver also holds more value compared to stainless steel as it is a precious metal.  

How to tell if something is Sterling Silver?

All Sterling Silver jewelry is typically stamped as such in the USA. Here’s a fun fact: take your Sterling silver and press it into an ice cube. Silver is an excellent conductor of heat and will melt ice super fast. Try it out at your next party and impress all your friends. 

While gold tone jewelry has become increasingly popular in recent years Sterling Silver has always made trustworthy and stunning jewelry. It’s easy to polish, clean, and maintain and makes a great base metal for demi-fine jewelry. It’s an excellent alternative to more expensive options like white gold or platinum with the same luxurious feel. Sterling Silver is an affordable, beautiful, and lightweight metal that makes timeless everyday jewelry.