For millennia, three metals were considered classical precious metals: silver, gold and platinum. Among these, silver has been extensively used in creating excellent jewelry, art and as currency. In nature, silver is usually found together with ores of lead, copper or copper-nickel, and it is then separated out and purified. In practice, silver can be of two types, and people are usually confused when it comes to distinguishing between them.
Sterling silver, while often confused with pure silver, is actually a silver alloy and contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% some other metal, usually copper. Pure silver, also named fine silver consists of 99.9% silver – however, it is too soft for most uses, so another metal is added to harden it and make it viable.
A great quality of pure silver is that, like gold, it is resistant to tarnish or oxidation of the surface. It will not corrode over time, even in the worst environments or circumstances and will maintain its shine over time. In addition, true fine silver is an exquisite metal and is ideal for creating jewelry from it. In order to make use of its beauty and other qualities of pure silver, another metal has to be added – usually copper – to add durability and make it malleable, without changing its color too much. Thus, sterling silver is created.
Sterling silver jewelry is usually branded with a hallmark indicating the purity of the silver, as well as what other metals are alloyed with it. In addition, information about the location, the time, and the silversmith that produced the jewelry might be inscribed on the item.
When buying silver jewelry – for example, a shining pair of sterling silver earrings, there are several things you need to remember.
First, you should look for the aforementioned hallmark. The imprint should read “sterling”, “sterling silver”, “ster” or 925. In the United States, for example, the law obliges the producing company to vouch that the jewelry is made of sterling silver by engraving their U.S. registered trademark on the item.
According to the type of jewelry you will be buying, here are some ideas and tips.
Necklaces are a versatile silver sterling piece and there is certainly something for you among the existing variety of designs. For example, casual wear like jeans can be matched with a silver pendant. Conversely, you would look extremely elegant at a formal event, adorned with cubic zirconium (a substitute for diamond) on a silver chain. Something else to keep in mind is the necklace’s length. Choker necklaces are better fitted with blouses, whereas for a lower cut neckline, you will need a longer silver chain.
Rings and bracelets can also be made of sterling silver – and look very good as such, for that matter. For example, sterling silver rings have a very elegant look to them, akin to diamonds, while an imprinted silver bracelet is a timeless piece of jewelry.
Another piece of jewelry that looks wonderful if made from silver is a pair of earrings. A great tip when buying sterling silver earrings is to consider a “batch” purchase, i.e. several pairs. Seeing as how silver earrings are available in a myriad of shapes and styles, they can suit many different occasions. For example, dangling earrings made of cubic zirconium have a delicate, elegant appearance and are suited for a cocktail party, while silver hoops (medium-sized) are perfect for the office.
If you have found the perfect pairs of sterling silver earrings, then you will probably wear them frequently. This can eventually cause variable degrees of degradation. Even though sterling silver is harder, more resilient than gold and rarely gets dents or deep scratches, it can be affected by tarnish if left in contact with the air for prolonged periods. However, this can be prevented with proper storage, cleaning and care. Here are some simple steps to maintain the shine of your sterling silver for years to come.
One way to clean your sterling silver earrings (or any silver jewelry) is by using a soft silver cleaning polishing cloth. This can be used as simple daily maintenance, by gently wiping jewelry item with the cloth, in order to remove fingerprints or traces of sweat.
If you have not cleaned your sterling silver earrings for a long while, tarnish can accumulate on their surface. The best way to remove it is to use a special silver cleaning solution, as it will reach all the fine folds of your earrings. Submerge the earrings in the solution for a few minutes, and then rinse with cold water. You should let the earrings dry on a towel, and then use the aforementioned polishing cloth to finish the procedure.
If you do not plan to wear a specific pair of sterling silver earrings for a while, make sure to store them properly in a jewelry box that has a special sterling silver lining. This will prevent tarnish from damaging your earrings. An alternative is to use an airtight box. In any case, be aware that wood-coated jewelry boxes are not good for your sterling silver earrings, as certain chemicals in the wood can damage them, so avoid these at all costs.
By following the simple procedures and recommendations outlined above, your sterling silver earrings, or any other piece of sterling silver jewelry, will last for a long period and, more importantly, they will retain their original shine.
As final thoughts, take into consideration that this was just a quick introduction to selecting the right type of sterling silver jewelry, being aware of what sterling silver exactly is and taking care of your sterling silver jewelry. In addition, it should be noted that at least a pair of sterling silver earrings should be found in any woman’s jewelry box, as it is an exquisite and elegant fashion item that can be matched with any apparel.