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- look it up!), food decorations, energy sources (solar), sanitation and even Greek metholody (remember Apollo and Artemis and the silver bowl?).
Naturally, silver found its way into jewellery 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? Why is it so versatile? And why has it been celebrated for so many years? Read on and brighten up your day with our fun facts you didn’t know about sterling silver jewellery.
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 then 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 silver shine. But did you know that some silversmiths use nickel instead?. 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 sterling silver 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 sterling silver hoops, will never cause any skin irritation and will only ever look effortlessly fabulous.
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 sterling silver 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 sterling silver, there will be a 925 stamp engraved into the inner part of the ring. Check out 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 wonderfully, it can! Recycled sterling silver is when precious silver is extracted from used sterling silver materials like jewellery. No purity is lost during the extraction, so sterling silver jewellery and recycled sterling silver jewellery are of the exact same quality. Currently, recycled sterling silver 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 sterling silver 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.
Why not sit down with a family member and look through their silver 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, sterling silver may be hardy but it isn’t impervious to tarnishing so check out how to look after your own sterling silver pieces here with our best maintenance tips and tricks.