I had a friend tell me at a party a few nights ago that she only wears silver.
“You mean sterling silver?” I gently directed.
“No. Silver. I don’t like the cheap stuff.”
Well, I didn’t want to embarrass her but it got me thinking that it’s time to clarify a thing or two about sterling silver – what it is and what it isn’t.
Pure silver is too soft for producing jewelry. It is alloyed with another metal to give it strength, generally copper, though other metals are often used as well, such as zinc, geranium and platinum. Sterling silver is made up of 92.5% mined silver and the rest, the chosen alloy. Tarnishing will occur in most sterling silvers because of the alloy ingredient, not because of the silver, which is non-reactive to oxygen.
Sterling silver is marked with a universal stamp at a manufacturing company for authentication purposes (see above photo). It can then be molded into various final products, such as jewelry and flatware. Because sterling silver is an alloy, it can tarnish and needs to be cleaned with silver cleaner.
Genuine silver is mined and comes from countries in South America such as Chile, Mexico and Peru. It can also be found in North America and across the US (Michigan and Arizona).