What is sterling silver?
Pure silver is relatively soft and malleable, and easily damaged—not well suited for jewelry. To defend against deformation or destruction, silver is combined with other metals to make it more durable. Sterling silver is the most common alloy mix found in jewelry. It must be at least 92.5% pure silver, but the other 7.5% can be any metal. Typically, this alloy is copper. Centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be silver’s best companion, without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal's value. Instead, the price of sterling silver is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson, and the intricacy of the design. Also, jewelry made with sterling silver is often plated with rhodium to give it a bright white finish that is a bit more resistant to scratching.
History and hallmarks
Making jewelry and currency out of sterling silver has been a practice for a very long time—since around the 12th century to be more accurate. Silver coins from this era were referred to as “Easterlings,” especially in the cattle markets. Eventually, the name was shortened to “Sterling” which is now used to denote the highest grade of silver. Fondly referred to as “the metal of the moon,” because of its milky white and greyish color, sterling silver is commonly stamped with what’s known as a hallmark. The hallmark indicates the amount of pure silver content, and sometimes denotes the date of completion and country of origin. And under federal law, it must be accompanied by a maker's mark or registered trademark. Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include:
- Sterling silver
Common uses for sterling silver in jewelry
Sterling Silver Necklaces
Due to sterling silver’s light weight and its durable properties, this alloy is one of the most popular among craftspeople.
Sterling Silver Earrings
From studs to hoops to dangles, and everything in between, earrings crafted in sterling silver are lightweight and very comfortable to wear compared to styles made with heavier metals. This makes sterling silver universally popular among craftspeople and consumers alike.
Other Types of Silver Jewelry at Blue Nile
What’s the best way to care for sterling silver jewelry?
With proper care, your fine-quality sterling silver jewelry will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage, store your silver jewelry in either a cloth pouch or a separate compartment in your jewelry box. Avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals, like bleach and ammonia or when swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage sterling silver.
Clean Your Silver Jewelry Regularly
Care should also be taken to prevent silver tarnish buildup, a dulling that naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the ambient air. To clean your silver, use a soft cloth with a polish formulated specifically to remove tarnish. You can find fine silver polishes, solutions, or cloths appropriate to remove tarnish at hardware stores or specialty craft stores. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible, although wearing your silver jewelry 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 and sparkly—and if needed, a fresh coat of rhodium from your local silversmith will restore sterling silver’s original shine.
Is the jewelry at Blue Nile made with sterling silver?
Silver jewelry and accessories at Blue Nile are made of beautiful sterling silver, the standard for high-quality silver jewelry.