Important Truths About Sterling Silver

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Like all fashion trends, preferences towards specific jewellery metals fluctuate from time to time. Despite this, there are some metals that remain a consistent front-runner and sterling silver is one such metal. As with most jewellery pieces, sterling silver can last for a considerably long time but special care must be taken.

1) It’s an alloy

One of the biggest misconceptions about sterling silver is that it’s comprised of silver only, when in actual fact it’s an alloy, meaning that it’s a combination of metals. Whilst primarily consisting of silver (over 90%), the remaining portion is composed of other metals such as copper, zinc, platinum and so on. These additional metals help to reduce sterling silver’s tendency to tarnish.

2) It will often be hallmarked

Like other precious metals, sterling silver will often include a small hallmark to denote its purity, along with other information including the country in which it was produced.

3) It’s financial value isn’t consistent

Because sterling silver isn’t 100% pure, it cannot be used for investment purposes like other metals, such as gold or platinum. Nevertheless, because of its almost exclusive silver content, the total value of sterling silver jewellery is largely influenced by the current trading prices of silver. If you are looking to offload sterling jewellery items, be sure to do so when silver’s market value is high.

4) It’s harder and more durable than pure silver

Similar to the gold that is used for the purposes of jewellery (i.e. 14ct, 18ct), people often ask why artisans choose not to use 100% pure silver. There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. It becomes scratched and tarnished too easily
  2. It’s too soft and malleable, making it unsuitable for jewellery purposes, especially everyday items such as engagement rings

Through the addition of the other metals, sterling silver’s practicality is greatly improved.

5) It can tarnish easily if not looked after correctly

While the other metals help to make sterling silver tougher and more suitable for jewellery wear, they also make it more susceptible to tarnishing. When sterling silver become exposed to air or comes in contact with perspiration or chemical solutions such as swimming pool water for example (chlorine or sale), the metal becomes tainted.

For this reason, it’s essential to remove silver jewellery when going in the pool, having a shower or even exercising. As well as this, cosmetic products also have a tendency to eat away at silver, so jewellery must always be put on last to prevent unwanted contact. If left untreated, the tainted residue can cause irreversible damage to sterling silver items.

To help protect items from tarnishing they must be properly cleaned on a consistent basis. Aside from cleaning, there are a number of methods that can be used to prevent tarnishing including rhodium electroplating, which applies a thin layer of rhodium (a special corrosive resistant metal) to the item. If you have a sterling silver piece and wish to prevent tarnishing, contact your local jeweller who can plate the item for you. Prices range from $50 - $100 or so for a ring and it will protect the jewellery for 2-3 years.

Another factor that can tarnish sterling silver is the manner and subsequent conditions in which it is stored. Warm, humid weather can quickly ruin the appearance of sterling items. Keeping the items stored in a jewellery box or sealed bags with tarnish-resistant strips will help to minimise the effects of humidity. Another effective trick is to store the jewellery alongside a stick of chalk or packet of silica, which absorb the humidity. Never store sterling silver jewellery with other jewellery pieces, as it scratches far too easily.

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