Silver is one of the three classic precious metals, alongside gold and platinum. All three of which have been used for centuries in the production of fine jewelry. Fine (bullion) silver, which refers to silver at 99.9% purity, is too soft and malleable for most uses, used most often for the production of minted treasury bars. When it comes to the manufacture of jewelry, sterling silver is the silver of choice.
Sterling silver is a mixture of pure silver and, typically, copper. The ratio of which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, though other metals are used on occasion as well (e.g., nickel and zinc) to form the alloy. The addition of other metals provides for hardness and durability as well as to aid in the prevention of tarnishing. Sterling silver has a natural white luster, though is prone to tarnish due to a reaction occurring between the silver itself and sulfur in the atmosphere. As well, oxygen may tarnish the copper content of sterling silver.
The term “sterling silver” itself apparently emerged in England around the 13th century, a product of a convergence of terms in reference to 925 silver–i.e. sterling silver. The meaning seems to reference a “firmly planted little star,” likely a reference to sterling silver’s luster and durability. Another perspective on the emergence of the term “sterling” puts forth the notion that the term in question stems from an area in modern day Germany (circa 1300 AD) called the “Easterling.” It was in this particular area that sterling silver emerged as component of primary local currency.
Sterling silver as a form of currency was later adopted by the English and remained a mainstay for centuries. Today, however, sterling silver is no longer prevalent as minted currency. Despite this, sterling silver, harder than gold, more plentiful, and more affordable, remains popular as a precious metal for a host of other purposes.
Sterling silver was extremely popular in the form of flatware and ornamental dining implements from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Today however, sterling silver is most popular as the base metal for quality, fashionable–yet affordable–jewelry.
Sterling silver can be fashioned into a wide variety of interesting and ornamental jewelry pieces. From sterling silver rings, sterling silver bracelets, sterling silver charms, sterling silver necklaces, to sterling silver earrings–sterling silver is extremely popular among both jewelry artisans and consumers. You can’t go wrong with sterling silver jewelry.
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