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 sterling silver 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 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.Know your alloy metals and always make sure you are buying the copper variant. At Aquila, we only ever use pure silver and copper for our sterling silver. So, your favourite chunky hoops will never cause any skin irritation and will only ever look beautifully boho.
Silver inspired a country's name
A silver 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').
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 recycled sterling silver? 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.
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 sterling silver 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
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 sterling 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 silver jewellery pieces here with our best maintenance tips and tricks.