Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Buy and Care for Sterling Silver Jewelry

How to Buy and Care for Sterling Silver Jewelry

Silver has been used to make jewelry since ancient times, but the exploration of continents in the western hemisphere uncovered more productive silver mines than Europeans had ever seen. More silver has been mined and used since the late 1700's than in all prior centuries combined.

What is Sterling Silver?

Silver is a soft metal in its pure form, too soft to be used for jewelry and other items, so it's mixed with other metals to make it more durable. A popular silver mixture, called an alloy, is known as sterling silver. The US Federal Trade Commission, the FTC, stipulates that jewelry sold in the US cannot be marked or described as silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling, or using the abbreviation Ster. unless it contains at least 92.5 percent pure silver.
The minimum silver content can also be stated as 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, so you might see the figures 925 or 92.5 used to mark silver content.
Copper Content
Copper is the most common metal used to round out the 7.5 percent alloy balance in sterling silver. It adds hardness to pure silver, but brings with it a tendency to tarnish--a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with gases in the air or with other substances that it comes in contact with.

Storing Sterling Silver Jewelry

Store your sterling silver jewelry in tarnish prevention cloths or bags. The treated cloth slows down the tarnishing process and keeps the jewelry from rubbing against harder jewelry that can scratch it. Try to to keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place.

Cleaning Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Clean sterling silver with a phosphate free detergent. A low abrasive cleaner, such as 3M Tarni-Shield Silver Polish, is a good choice for removing light tarnish. Some people use toothpaste to clean their sterling silver, but most silver experts caution against it because they feel toothpaste is too abrasive and leaves dulling scratches.

Sterling Silver Patina

Sterling silver jewelry that is worn continually often develops a lovely patina, a kind of glow combined with darkened areas. If you like the look, leave it alone. If you prefer a bright and shiny look for your sterling silver, use polish to restore the jewelry to its original appearance.

Silver and Platinum Combination

In 2003, Marc “Doc” Robinson created 3 formulas of platinum enhanced sterling silver for ABI Precious Metals in Carson, California. His sterling with platinum alloy is harder than sterling/copper blends and is tarnish resistant. Expect to see the new, more expensive alloys used to create fine jewelry.


Sterling silver jewelry is beautiful... and affordable. Sterling silver jewelry and components are within reach of nearly any budget--ours and the budgets of individual jewelry artisans who create the silver jewelry we love so much.

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