Sterling Silver; How to Identify it and Clean it

By: Lillia Boekeloo

This guide will help you learn to identify quality in silver jewelry and accessories.

Sterling Silver
Pure Silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily scratched so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more resilient product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5% non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to best improve the metal's hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color.
The small amount of copper added to sterling has 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 skill of the craftsperson, and the intricacy of the design.


Identifying Quality Sterling Silver
All high quality silver items are stamped with a "Sterling Silver" or "925" mark. This mark identifies the precious metal content of the jewelry.
Silver Alloys
Because pure silver is so soft, it should only be used when malleability is required, such as in handcrafted jewelry featuring weaving and other intricate designs. Sterling Silver is most often used for jewelry and household accessories because of its combination of beauty and durability. Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include:
vSterling
vSterling Silver
v.925
Care
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.
Clean your Silver REGULARLY!!!
Care should also be taken to prevent silver tarnish build-up a dulling that naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the surrounding air. To clean your silver, use specific formulas to remove tarnish. You can find fine silver polishes, solutions, or cloths designed to remove tarnish. These are available at most hardware stores or specialty craft stores. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible! So keep an eye out for it! Although wearing your silver often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up, regular cleanings of all your silver items will prevent tarnish and keep your silver bright, sparkling, and beautiful.

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