How To Tell If Your Jewelry Is Really Sterling Silver?

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Is your search for the perfect symbol of your love and commitment leading you to the world of jewelry? 

Maybe you're pondering the difference between pure silver and sterling silver, or you're a fashion enthusiast who’s simply curious about the enigmatic allure of silver jewelry. 

Well, look no further!

We're delving deep into the fascinating realm of sterling silver jewelry, aiming to unravel its charm and decode its mystery. 

Whether you're planning a dreamy proposal, on the hunt for unique wedding bands, or simply a lover of all things shiny and stylish, sterling silver jewelry might be just what you're looking for. 

It's possible that the allure of sterling silver's sheen or its affordability has drawn your attention. 

But what exactly is sterling silver? 

How does it differ from pure silver, and why is it favored in jewelry making? 

This blog aims to be your comprehensive guide, helping you make an informed decision regarding this illustrious metal. 

From its composition to its unique properties and its place in the grandeur of jewelry history, we'll cover it all. 

So sit back, and let us help you illuminate your jewelry journey with the shimmering light of sterling silver. 

So, what is silver?

Human civilizations have cherished and used silver as a precious metal for thousands of years.

It's known for its lustrous shine and incredible malleability. Pure silver, often referred to as fine silver, is quite soft.

This quality, while making it excellent for intricate designs, also makes it prone to damage and wear.

Silver is chemically classified as a transition metal.

It is a solid, shiny, white metallic element that conducts heat and electricity better than any other element.

It is also renowned for its antibacterial properties, making it useful in medical and industrial applications.

Its chemical symbol, Ag, derives from the Latin word 'Argentum', which means 'shiny' or 'white'.

When used in jewelry, pure silver is usually marked with a '999', indicating it contains 99.9% silver.

Silver, like gold, is measured in karats.

However, pure silver is typically too soft for everyday wear, so you'll often encounter something called 'sterling silver' in the jewelry world. 

Now, what is that? 

Let's find out!

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy, meaning it's a mixture of metals. Specifically, it contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. 

This blend is done to enhance the durability of silver without compromising its beautiful sheen.

The '925' mark on sterling silver jewelry signifies its composition.

Just like gold karats represent the purity of gold, the percentage in sterling silver represents its silver content.

For instance, a gold piece marked as 14K consists of 58.3% pure gold, while an 18K piece contains 75% gold. 

In a similar vein, '925' sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver.

This consistency in percentage provides an easy way to understand the quality and value of precious metal jewelry.

Since sterling silver is more resistant to wear and tear than its pure silver counterpart, it is often used for everyday jewelry. 

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Its affordability, versatility, and timeless elegance make sterling silver jewelry popular for many!

How do I know if my sterling silver jewelry is genuine?

Authenticating sterling silver jewelry involves looking for the '925' hallmark. 

The number 925 indicates that the piece contains 92.5% pure silver, which is the standard for sterling silver. 

How to test if sterling silver is real

It's a common concern among jewelry enthusiasts: 

How do you ensure that your sterling silver is genuine? 

Here, we will explore three easy methods to test the authenticity of your sterling silver: the 925 marking check, the magnet test, and consulting with a reputable jeweler.

The 925 Marking

True sterling silver pieces carry a specific hallmark - the '925' mark. This number refers to the jewelry's 92.5% pure silver content, a defining feature of sterling silver. If your piece has this stamp, it's a good sign it's genuine. 

However, be cautious; sometimes counterfeit items may also bear this marking. So, it's important to perform additional checks or seek professional advice.

The Magnet Test

Most precious metals, including silver, are not magnetic. For the magnet test, you'll need a powerful magnet, like a rare-earth neodymium magnet. 

You only have to touch the magnet to the object.

If it sticks, then, unfortunately, the piece is not real silver. If it doesn't, it could well be genuine. 

Some metals besides silver are also not magnetic, so this test should be used in conjunction with others for greater accuracy.

Ask a Reputable Jeweler

If you're still unsure after the 925 marking and magnet tests, it's best to consult a reputable jeweler. 

Experienced professionals have an eye for detail and can provide expert opinions.

They might use acid tests or X-ray fluorescence testing, which are highly accurate but may require a small fee. 

Remember, it's worth getting a professional opinion for peace of mind and to ensure your investment is genuine sterling silver.

Which is better for jewelry?

Picking the right material for your jewelry is crucial, as it affects how it looks, how long it lasts, and how comfortable it is to wear. 

Sterling silver, for instance, is a fantastic choice, especially for those who value longevity and classic beauty.

It is not only strong and durable but also timeless in its appeal. 

Moreover, it offers flexibility in design and versatility to match any outfit or occasion.

Pure silver, much like 24K gold, isn’t the best choice for daily wear, and you’ll find most designers and jewelers don’t produce anything using it for this reason.

Does sterling silver tarnish?

Sterling silver is a beloved material for its gleam and durability. 

However, it tends to tarnish over time, mainly due to its copper content. 

Exposure to air, humidity, or certain chemicals can accelerate this process, making your silver darken or turn a greenish hue. 

The good news is that tarnish can be removed easily, and proper care can help prevent it!

On an even better note, most silver is rhodium plated these days, especially in fashion jewelry.

The extra layer of protection from the rhodium prevents the sterling silver from tarnishing - happy days!

Does sterling silver rust?

While sterling silver can tarnish, it does not rust. 

Rust is a form of corrosion that specifically affects iron and its alloys. 

Silver, including sterling silver, does not contain iron and, thus, does not rust. 

Spots of reddish-brown color on silver jewelry are probably not due to oxidation but to the presence of another metal.

If you want your sterling silver to retain its luster and last for generations, the proper storage and care of your pieces is essential.

The Silver Lining: Embracing the Charm of Sterling Silver

Sterling silver holds a unique place in the world of jewelry. 

Its resilience, affordability, and timeless allure make it a worthy choice for any jewelry lover. Although it does tarnish, the process is slow and reversible. Most importantly, sterling silver does not rust, ensuring its longevity.

Determining the authenticity of sterling silver is also straightforward. Look for the '925' hallmark, or consider a magnet test.

When in doubt, consulting a trusted jeweler can provide peace of mind. The Ben Garelick team is always on hand to check your silver’s authenticity for you!

So, whether you're contemplating that silver engagement ring, a pair of elegant earrings, or a bespoke necklace, remember that with sterling silver, you're investing in a piece that marries durability with enduring beauty. 

Let your jewelry journey be as sterling as the silver you choose!

Visit us at our Buffalo, NY store today. Not nearby? Not to worry - chat with our silver experts online 24/7, call us on (716) 631-1584, or text (716) 574-0966.

Let’s find the perfect engagement ring, wedding band or silver piece for you or the love of your life!

Peter Manka Jr

Peter Manka Jr. - Owner at Ben Garelick

Peter Manka Jr. is a passionate member of the family business who joined Ben Garelick in the early 2000s after working in product licensing for Sesame Workshop & The Jim Henson Company for many years. He obtained a degree in diamonds and jewelry from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in order to sharpen his jewelry skills. He takes great pride in providing exceptional customer service and helping clients find the perfect piece of jewelry.

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