Man has known about the metal silver and has used it since as far back as 3000 B.C. Pure silver is a metal element with Shiny white metallic luster and it is very malleable and ductile. To a certain extent it is also a scarce and costly metal though not as much in comparison to gold and platinum. Pure silver is the very best conductor of heat and electricity amongst all metals.
The symbol Ag has been derived from the Latin word Argentum which means silver. The name silver itself comes from from the Old English Anglo-Saxon word ‘seolfor’ meaning silver.
Silver has an atomic number of 47, occupies period 5, group 11 and block d in the periodic table and is classified as a transition metal.
Silver ore occurs in nature in native form and the metal also occurs in ores of copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead and lead-zinc. It is found in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia and the USA.
Pure silver does not react with air or water but reacts with hydrogen sulphide, Ozone and air containing sulphur which causes it to tarnish. The classic example of this occurs when boiled egg is handed out in a silver dish. Boiled egg releases hydrogen sulphide gas and tarnishes the dish.
Silver compounds find numerous uses in photography, printed circuits, dental compounds, brazing, electrical contacts, batteries and superior mirror production. Silver fulminate is used as an explosive.
Pure silver which is also called fine silver is very tender and jewelry items and other articles made of pure silver would not retain their shapes. In order to overcome this difficulty, a tiny quantity of another metal is combined with pure silver to lend the desired hardness to the alloy. Though many other metals can make up the remaining non-silver part, long term experience has proven copper to be the ideal choice which improves the hardness and durability of the alloy without affecting its color or luster. The alloy so acquired is called sterling silver.
Sterling silver is greatly valued for producing jewelry and tableware. It has many other ornamental uses and it is also widely used in coinage.
Copper-silver alloy containing 72% silver and 28% copper known for its thermal conductivity finds industrial uses in electronics.
Sterling silver has a very special characteristic in sound resonance. For this reason, some brasswind instruments producers create musical instruments out of this metal. Leading saxophone manufacturers like Selmer, P.Mauriat, and Yanagisawa, have created some of their saxophones made from sterling silver and they believe that the instruments will become more resonant in sound performance.
It has been stipulated by FTC, The US Federal Trade Commission that jewelry in the United States can bear silver markings or be described as silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling, or with the abbreviation Steronly if it contains at least 92.5 percent pure silver.
The minimum silver content can also be declared as 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, so you might see the figures 925 or 92.5 used to specify silver content.
Under federal law, the marking must be accompanied by a maker’s mark or registered trademark.
Sterling silver is a very well-liked medium amongst people for crafting jewelry and can be used to make all kinds of jewelry, from earrings to bracelets to rings, necklaces and pendants. Its popularity may be based on the fact that the elegance of sterling silver jewelry is comparable to other precious metals while at the same time its price remains in the affordable range.
Sterling silver appears flawlessly shiny & white when it is new. But, it might lose some of its sparkle and become dirtier and darker with passage of time. Although pure silver is unyielding to tarnish and does not react with air or moisture, it might react with hydrogen sulphide or sulphur in ambient air causing it to tarnish. Moreover the copper content readily reacts with air causing a coat of tarnish on its surface.
To minimize scratches and other damage, 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 might scratch it. Keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place.
Do not let your silver to come near household chemical substances like bleaching agents or ammonia. The chlorine in the chlorinated water of your swimming pool can also harm silver.
An important thing to do is to wipe sterling silver jewelry with a clean polishing cloth after you have worn them. This will get the dust, dirt and sweat out of the nooks and corners of the jewelry.
Polishing cloths are a good choice for cleaning your sterling silver jewelry. Steer clear of using toothpaste to clean sterling silver, toothpaste is abrasive and can leave marks on your jewelry.
Care should be taken to prevent the build up of tarnish overtime with regular wearing and frequent cleaning. To clean your silver, use polishes formulated specifically to remove tarnish. Tarnish is most effortlessly removed when it first becomes noticeable.
With steady long term use sterling silver jewelry often develops a beautiful patina, a kind of glow mixed with darkened areas. If you happen to like this look you can keep it as it is. Or else, you can use a polish cloth to restore the jewelry to its original appearance.
With regular care and some safeguards your silver will last you a lifetime.