What is sterling silver
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925. This is the reason why Sterling Silver is popularly referred to as 925 Sterling Silver or just 925 Silver.
Fine silver, for example 99.9% pure silver, is relatively soft, so silver is usually alloyed with copper to increase its hardness and strength. Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing and elements other than copper can be used in alloys to reduce tarnishing, as well as casting porosity and firescale. Such elements include germanium, zinc, platinum, silicon, and boron. Recent examples of these alloys include argentium, sterlium, sterilite and silvadium
The reason silver needs to be combined with other metals is that it is very difficult to make great designs with just pure silver, which is very soft and malleable. A bit of hardness has to be introduced, by adding other metals such as copper. That’s why jewelers are capable of making the most intricate and complex designs with 925 Sterling Silver.
The complexity of a jewelry design adds to the value of it. So how much rare or complicated jewelry design you select to buy, will estimate the value of sterling silver jewelry you own.
If a design includes some rare and precious or semi-precious stones, this will also increase the value of the jewelry.
One of the earliest attestations of the term is in Old French form esterlin, in a charter of the abbey of Les Préaux, dating to either 1085 or 1104. The English chronicler Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142) uses the Latin forms libræ sterilensium and libræ sterilensis monetæ. The word in origin refers to the newly introduced Norman silver penny.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most plausible etymology is a derivation from a late Old English steorling (with (or like) a ‘little star’), as some early Norman pennies were imprinted with a small star.
Some countries developed systems of hallmarking silver:
- To indicate the purity of the silver alloy used in the manufacture or hand-crafting of the piece.
- To identify the silversmith or company that made the piece.
- To note the date and/or location of the manufacture or tradesman.
- To reduce the amount of counterfeiting of silver items.