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What Does The "Sterling" Mean in Sterling Silver?
What the Heck Does "Sterling" Mean?
We hear and see �sterling silver this� and �sterling silver that� almost every day, yet many shoppers do not understand what it really means. Does �sterling� mean �pure�? Does sterling silver jewelry come from a certain part of the world? Is sterling better or worse � or the same � as pure silver? And what does that stamp on the back of my necklace mean when it says �.925�?
By definition and international agreement �sterling� silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% some other material � usually copper. The 92.5% is why jewelry is often stamped with the numbers 925 or .925.
Now you might think, �oh, well that means sterling silver is not as good as pure silver�. Well, yes and no. It certainly isn�t pure, but sterling silver is mixed to this exact ratio for some very good reasons. Have you ever seen pure silver after a few years in the open air? If not, take a look at your grandmother�s silver spoon collection. Silver tends to oxidize (tarnish) quickly, leaving it a yucky brown color. The 7.5% copper or other metals used to make sterling silver slow down the tarnishing process.
Secondly, pure silver is a very soft metal. It can bend or break easily. Adding another, more durable, metal to the mix ensures that your silver jewelry will last a lot longer, and look a lot nicer down the road. So really, sterling silver � although not pure � is usually the better option when choosing jewelry.
And last but not least, adding another metal � and thus making the silver more durable � makes the substance easier for metal-smiths, jewelers and craftsmen to handle and manipulate into those intricate rings, pendants and necklaces we so adore.
So there you go� next time you�re shopping for some new jewelry, or buying an anniversary gift for your girlfriend / wife, you will understand exactly what the salesperson means when they say �This is sterling silver�� even if they don�t.
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