Silver and sterling silver are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they do not always mean the same thing. A product may be described as silver when in fact it is just silver-coloured.
I think this can be confusing for many people so thought I would publish a quick guide to some of the main types of ‘silver’ I frequently see marketed.
Fine Silver – .999
Fine silver, has actual silver content of 99.9%. Because of its high purity, fine silver is considered too soft to use in a lot of jewellery making applications and is often mixed with other metals to make it harder.
Items made of fine silver may wear faster than sterling pieces as a result of its inherent softness.
Sterling Silver -.925
Sterling silver is an alloy (92.5% silver) created when another metal, commonly copper, is added to pure silver in order to make the resulting compound more durable and less soft for a wide range of jewellery uses.
Sterling silver will generally be marked as such with a 925 stamped in it. In the UK if an item weighs more than 7.78g and is to be sold as Sterling, it must be assayed (tested) and hallmarked as such by one of the official assay offices.
Sterling Silver may tarnish but can be cleaned with a special cloth designed to remove the tarnish.
Silver plating is a very thin layer of silver deposited on to a base metal such as copper, brass, or nickel. Most fashion jewellery is silver plated. Unless it is specifically marked otherwise you should assume that your piece is plated. If you wear the jewellery frequently, expose it to body lotions and perfumes or wear it in water, the plating will eventually rub off.
Silver filled is similar to silver plated but a much thicker layer of silver is applied to the base metal at its core. The result is a much more durable piece.
An item described as silver-tone may not have any silver at all in it. It may simply be silver in colour.