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Sterling Silver vs Silver, What’s the Difference?

Sterling silver vs silver-BIXLER

It is a common misconception that Sterling Silver and Silver are the same things, but in reality, they’re not. Their make-up, characteristics, and price is what makes them different from one another. The term ‘Silver’ is used when talking about the pure form of the metal, also known as fine silver. Just like gold, silver is a soft metal and thus it can’t maintain its shape very well in its pure form, that’s why different hard alloy metals are mixed with pure silver prior to making jewelry.

Difference Between Silver and Sterling Silver

The difference between Sterling Silver and Silver is simple; The fine silver is obtained from silver reserves or silver ores from nature directly. The fine silver is 99.9% pure and this percentage is obtained when impurities are separated from it through processing. When silver is mined, it contains traces of gold, lead, zinc, nickel, and lead-zinc. You can’t make anything with pure silver because it is malleable and soft, hence it won’t hold on to the shape it has been crafted in. It is prone to denting and unwanted shape changes.

The pure silver is a little more expensive than sterling silver, but fine silver and sterling silver are both cheaper than any kind of gold. Pure silver tends to get tarnished much more easily due to the chemical reaction with the oxygen in the atmosphere. Also, silver doesn’t have any side effects on the skin, it is hypoallergenic in nature. Basically, it’s considered to be skin-friendly.

Uses of Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is mostly used for jewelry and utensil making as it is quite affordable compared to some other metals. Every silver alloy product has information such as purity written somewhere on the package. Some people may have an allergy to sterling silver because of the addition of copper or nickel, so it is recommended that you take that into consideration before making a purchase. To combat those allergies, you can ask your jeweler to coat the jewelry with a certain type of coating that keeps the metal from directly touching the skin. This polish ensures that the surface of the jewelry is scratch-free, prevents tarnish, and keeps your skin free from irritation and jewelry from discoloring.

Which Is Best, Sterling Silver or Silver?

In terms of durability, sterling silver is always more durable than silver. Pure silver is soft and can get easily molded whereas sterling silver is hard and won’t be as easily molded. Due to its ability to shape into anything and being well known for its durability, sterling silver is widely used for making bracelets and chains. Sterling silver has a lower melting and freezing point than pure silver, so its obviously the cheaper option between the two. But if we talk about the look, then pure silver looks better than sterling silver.

Sterling silver necklace - BIXLER
Yellow Sapphire Gemstone Pendant in Sterling Silver

What is Silver Plating?

Silver plating or sterling silver plating is a thin layer of pure silver or sterling silver which is coated on items made of copper, nickel, or some other metal. It is mostly done on jewelry and cutlery. This thin layer wears off after some time, however, so beware of that before buying something that’s silver plated.

Silver vs Sterling Silver on the International Market

Although the standard for pure silver is 99.9 % and 92.5 % for sterling silver, that differs in different parts of the world. Russia has a sterling silver ratio below 90% while Germany has it at 80%. Regardless of the different ratios, every legal silver item is marked and stamped with its specifications. Make sure that when you buy silver jewelry, you buy it from a reputable jewelry store and you check the authentications before you buy it.

Why Buy Sterling Silver Jewelry?

  1. It is a cheap alternative to gold.
  2. Silver never goes out of style.
  3. Sterling silver is beautiful and lasts longer when properly cared for, and polishing can make it scratch free.
  4. Silver is universal and can be used to match any color.
  5. Silver goes perfectly well with diamonds.

Want to find out more about jewelry? Check out our blog on the different types of gold and the different diamond cuts you should know.

Browse silver jewelry from America’s Oldest Jeweler.


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