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What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is the most common alloy mix found in jewellery. 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 colour. Often abbreviated as 925, sterling silver is a high-quality alloy that makes stunning jewellery for all occasions.

History and hallmarks

Making jewellery 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 colour, 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
  • Sterling silver
  • Ster
  • 0.925

Common uses for sterling silver in jewellery

Sterling Silver Necklaces

Due to sterling silver’s light weight and its durable properties, this alloy is one of the most popular among craftspeople.

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Sterling Silver Earrings

Lightweight and comfortable, sterling silver earrings are a perfect option for any style. There are a variety of styles to enjoy such as studs, dangles, and silver hoop earrings. Many silver earrings also include gemstones and pearls for added beauty.

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Other Types of Silver Jewellery at Blue Nile

What’s the best way to care for sterling silver jewellery?

With proper care, your fine-quality sterling silver jewellery will last a lifetime. To minimise scratches and other damage, store your silver jewellery in either a cloth pouch or a separate compartment in your jewellery 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 Jewellery 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 jewellery 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.

Is the jewellery at Blue Nile made with sterling silver?

All of our silver jewellery is made using beautiful sterling silver, offering high-quality pieces for any occasion.

Sterling Silver Frequently Asked Questions

Sterling silver contains at least 92.5% silver while pure silver contains 99.9% of the metal. Pure silver is very soft and is usually used in manufacturing. Sterling silver, on the other hand, is an exceptional choice for jewellery due to its combination of silver and additional alloys that strengthen the metal.

Pure silver is soft and difficult to work with, making it a bad fit for jewellery. Pure silver jewellery is not suited for frequent wear and requires extra care if it is worn. Our silver jewellery is made using sterling silver which is more suitable for necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. Sterling silver jewellery is perfect for daily wear and will keep its lustre with regular care.

Sterling silver is a valuable precious metal that is found in jewellery, housewares, décor and more. 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 labour involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson and the intricacy of the design. Also, jewellery made with sterling silver is often plated with rhodium to give it a bright white finish that is a bit more resistant to scratching.

Yes, 925 sterling silver can tarnish when it’s exposed to certain chemicals, high humidity or sulfur. You may notice that sterling silver jewellery left in the open air on top of a dresser, in a jewellery storage box or even in its own pouch turns a different colour over time. Typically, silver will form a layer of dark coloring across the surface as it tarnishes. This layer of tarnish is a sulfide coating that can be easily removed with a quick pass using a jewellery polishing cloth. For heavily tarnished pieces, jewellers can assist with polishing silver back to its original shine.

Next: Learn More About Other Metals

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