Silver has a rich history dating back 6000 years, as one of the first five metals to be discovered on the planet. From this stemmed its use in coins 2600 years ago and famously used in ‘Britannia silver standard’ silver bullion coins also. Countless other applications of silver and sterling silver span across fields such as medicine, astrology (supernova explosions), food decorations, energy sources (solar), sanitation and even Greek mythology.
Naturally, silver found its way into many jewellery collections due to its gorgeous lustre, durability and workability, but reinvented itself by combining with other metals to form sterling silver. Cue many centuries of elaborate jewellery workmanship that cover countless countries, cultures and traditions.
But what is sterling silver and why is it so versatile? What has made this alloy such a celebrated part of culture and history for so many years? Let’s find out...
Sterling silver is actually a mixture of two metals
While you may know that sterling silver is a mixture of two metals due to the fact that pure silver is too soft to mould or set, you may not know exactly what these other metals are. Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of base metal.
Jewellery makers usually choose between copper or nickel as the base metal/alloy. When the alloy is made with copper, this combination allows for the perfect balance of hardness, versatility and that famous shine.
Some silversmiths actually use nickel instead of copper. Nickel is known for its tendency to react with the oils on our skin, leaving behind a green ring mark and/or a nasty skin reaction due to a nickel allergy. We wrote in detail about tarnishing here if you want all the facts.
Silver inspired a country's name
A fact too interesting not to include! The Latin word for silver is 'argentum'. Argentina derived its name from this Latin word due to the great amount of precious minerals found there (it's also know as 'The Land of Silver').
It is the master of conductivity
When it comes to measuring metal conductivity, silver is right at the top - it is actually the standard other conductors are measured by. With copper measuring 97 out of 100 in conductivity and silver 100 out of 100, an Aquila sterling silver piece is highly conductive indeed. Both an interesting fact and a warning to sterling silver jewellery wearers - don’t get too close to heat when you have your pieces on.
Ancient Egypt were silver fans
It isn’t just Aquila who are fans of this precious metal. Way back in ancient Egyptian times (the Old Kingdom Era), the Egyptian people believed that silver was of much higher value and importance than gold. Sterling silver jewellery was rarer and worn thinner than its chunky gold jewellery counterparts.
The sterling silver stamp
We have spoken about the much regarded 925 assayer’s stamp of quality before, and how important this stamp is for telling the purity of a piece. It means that for every 1000 parts of the material in the jewellery piece, 925 parts must be made of silver and no more than 75 parts should be a different metal.
The stamp and stamp shape tend to vary depending on which country the silver jewellery has been made in too, but if it is real, there will be a 925 stamp engraved into the inner part of the ring. Just look at one of our chunky silver rings or mixed metal ring sets to see the stamp yourself.
Sterling silver can be recycled
Recycling, in general, is a really hot topic industry wide at the moment, not to mention in the jewellery industry as an increasing amount of brands head towards environmental sustainability.
You may not know that sterling silver can actually be recycled, but it can, and it is! It occurs when precious silver is extracted from used sterling silver materials like jewellery. No purity is lost during the extraction, so the original jewellery and new jewellery are of the exact same quality.
Currently, recycled jewellery is all the rage in the year 2021 with many publications including The Guardian displaying their fashion must-have fixes as some recycled jewellery.
But what are the environmental benefits of jewellery recycling? Not only will CO2 emissions be greatly reduced but far less energy will be consumed during the extraction process. Animal lives will also be saved from the forests that are cut down to form metal mines and the forests will be saved too.
Aquila is very proud to say that our sterling silver collections are recycled metals from our end of lines, surplus, faulty items and samples. It is so important to give back to the beautiful environment around us, and by making (and buying) recycled jewellery, we can truly make a difference.
Help your health with silver
You may know that silver has been used in medicinal settings due to its antibacterial properties. During World War I silver compounds were applied to help stop the spread of infection. In fact, some still buy the colloidal version to ward off infection and kill bacteria today. Some dressings also contain silver for this reason.
Cloud seeding uses silver
For those interested in meteorology, you will be pleased to find out that silver has its place in cloud seeding. A vital place, in fact. It is used in the form of silver iodide which is released into a cloud to make it produce a rain shower. This is done as an attempt to manage hurricanes.
A 12th Century European history
The origins of sterling silver date back as far as the 12th Century where it was being used for commerce in Germany.
Silver is the reflective metal champion
Polished silver is able to reflect up to 95% of light shone on it (visible light spectrum) according to unclaimedbaggage. That makes it the metal with the most reflective properties. Sterling silver enjoys the benefits of some of that shine too hence many owners desire to keep their pieces polished to perfection.
Due to the durability and strength of sterling silver, it is the most popular precious metal alloy for those that was a specific and particular jewellery design custom-made. Easy to shape, fashion and design, this alloy is a silversmith’s dream. As it is also inexpensive yet high quality sterling silver is an extremely popular option for those who want long lasting pieces added to their jewellery collection.
Silver bracelets can bring about positivity
For those who lead a spiritual life, it is believed that wearing a silver bracelet on your left wrist can actually summon all of the positive energy from whatever environment surrounds you. This belief is based on the association with the left side of the body and its link to the spiritual internal self.
The value of sterling silver may not just be in the metal
Whilst sterling silver isn’t an investment metal as is not 100% pure, its value can come from its provenance (the origin of the piece). Fine metal specialists First National Bullion state that when it comes to such jewellery pieces it is necessary to ‘check the provenance of the pieces, which could be worth a lot more of the metal’. In other words, when the piece was made and by whom may carry more value than the current price of the metals themselves on the market.
Luckily for you silver has the highest price in the markets right now. It's the highest price of silver in eight years so it could be a good time to invest in some sterling silver jewellery sets.
No word rhymes with silver
Interestingly, silver is one of the words in the English language that has no other words that rhyme with it.
Indian women wear a certain precious metal only below the waist
We wrote a blog all about how the world wears silver jewellery and discovered that in India, silver represents motherhood, femininity and actually acts as a protection from magic. Wearers of jewellery wear gold above the waist and sterling silver below the waist with such items as anklets and bangles being the preferred choice.
Why not sit down with a family member and look through their jewellery with them? They might have charming stories behind each piece and you can connect over the history of each piece. Perhaps you could look at the jewellery and check for stamps and its provenance?
So there it is, some fun facts about silver jewellery in all its rich and diverse socio-cultural and even scientific glory. But remember, this precious metal alloy may be hardy but it isn’t impervious to tarnishing so check out how to look after your own jewellery pieces here with our best maintenance tips and tricks.