Sterling silver is the standard for beautiful high-quality silver jewelry. It’s over 90% pure silver, mixed with alloys to add strength and durability. And it won’t wear down, as silver plating can.
Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft and easily damaged. It is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, copper has proven to be its best mix, improving the metal’s hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal’s value. Instead, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the craftsmanship, and the intricacy of the design.
Most high quality silver items are stamped with a “fineness” or “quality” mark. This mark designates the precious metal content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker’s mark or registered trademark. Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include:
> sterling silver
With proper care, your fine quality silver will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage, store your silver jewelry either in a cloth pouch or in a separate compartment in your jewelry box. Avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals when cleaning with bleach or ammonia, or when swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage silver.