Holiday time is when we find our customers buying more sterling silver, so I decided to learn a little bit more about sterling silver‘s history! The name of sterling silver dates way back to the 12th-century, in order to pay the British for English cattle, East Germans requited them with silver coins. These silver coins slowly became titled “Easterlings” which transitioned to the abbreviated “Sterling”.
Silver mines were first discovered in “Anatolia” (now known as Turkey), which was the main source of silver for many of the growing cultures in that area of the world. Silver became a currency soon afterward, and incremental efforts to mine silver took place- increasing its value around the world.
So what exactly is sterling silver? Sterling silver contains at least 92.5% silver, the remaining 7.5% is comprised of any other metal (usually copper). Any silver containing more than 95% becomes way too malleable for everyday use, which is why the second metal is included in sterling silver to provide each piece with durability and stability.
There is an assortment of styles and textures when it comes to sterling silver jewelry. Like with so many finer things, fake sterling silver jewelry does exist and we put together a few quick questions to determine whether or not a piece is real sterling silver.
Is it magnetic? Sterling Silver should not be magnetic. Any piece attracted to a magnet is usually highly polished stainless steel (made to look like silver).
Is there anything I can look for on the piece of jewelry itself? Yes! Most of the time, real sterling silver jewelry has a mark to indicate the purity of it. These marks include “925”, “.925” or “S925”, and this should be easy to remember considering sterling silver is made up of 92.5% silver! Not all pieces have these marks, if there is some sort of official stamp on the piece of jewelry; it’s most likely real.
Is there anything else I can do to test it? The last suggestion we have is simply to rub the piece with a white cloth, if you see black marks- then it’s real sterling silver! These marks appear because sterling silver oxidizes when exposed to air, which also contributes to tarnishing.
Something else to consider: Price! Usually sterling silver costs a bit more than anything you would find to be fake, so if the price seems a bit higher than it’s likely your sterling silver jewelry is real!
As most beautiful things do, sterling silver requires maintenance! The reason it’s so important to take care of sterling silver is because the second metal (copper) makes it tarnish. Tarnishing sterling silver is the result of a chemical reaction between copper and oxygen, which makes the silver darken or become discolored (usually a yellow or brown). Click here to learn more about how to take care of sterling silver.
Sterling silver is just one among several mediums of jewelry with a story; gaining knowledge on the items I sell helps me to better understand the artisans I work with as well as my own customers. Feel free to comment below to share more information or ask any questions you may have regarding sterling silver care We love hearing back from you!