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What Is Sterling Silver and What Does '925' Mean?

Posted by Clare Izaguirre on

What does the hallmark 925 mean on silver jewellery?

The 925 stamp on silver jewellery is all about the purity of the silver. It means that for every 1000 parts of material in the jewellery piece, 925 parts must be made of silver and no more than 75 parts should be a different metal. It breaks down into 92.5% silver and 7.5% an additional metal.

Antique silver & antique jewellery specialists AC Silver, state on their page dedicated to silver purity that the system denoting the purity or grade of silver is called millesimal fineness, a system that also includes gold and platinum. They explain that millesimal fineness indicates the purity of silver by parts per thousand of pure metal by mass in the alloy.

For sterling silver, the minimal millesimal fineness is 925. It is what is known as the ‘sterling standard’. A 925 sterling silver hallmark is stamped on the bottom of each genuine piece. The stamp and its shape are different depending on the country the silver has been made in. Note that if there is no stamp or a mark that cannot be traced or identified it means the purity of the silver is in question and it may even be fake sterling silver.

The same applies for gold jewellery. It needs to have karat markings in order to display its purity. However, jewellery is commonly stamped with whatever the majority metal is. So for gold vermeil or gold plated sterling silver jewellery, it would be stamped with the sterling silver purity hallmark.

Sterling 925 silver is the metal of choice for the Aquila silver jewellery collections. All our silver 925 jewellery carries the sterling standard as a form of quality assurance for our customers. Why not check your next Aquila piece for its 925 silver stamp?

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is a combination of two metals. Pure or fine silver comprises 92.5% of the mixture and the other 7.5% consists of a different metal, usually copper. It is impossible to have silver jewellery made from 99.9% pure or fine silver because the content is far too soft to use alone. In order to harden the silver and to maintain the colour and lustre, pure silver is mixed with additional metal so that the new compound is firm and durable enough to be worked with by silversmiths. 

According to the history of sterling silver from silvergallery.com, sterling silver has been ‘heralded for centuries for its highly lustrous finish and versatile applications’, and we couldn’t agree more!

In our sterling silver Aquila ranges, our sterling 925 silver is guaranteed to be 92.5% pure silver mixed with copper (never nickel). The addition of copper metal allows for our jewellery to bear the gorgeous handmade designs of our highly skilled artisans. Take a look at our unique Sydney Collection for some authentic sterling silver designs to be inspired by.

Is sterling silver real silver?

Yes, and no. Real silver is a single metal element. Sterling silver is a compound of two metals, real silver and copper (or another metal).

Which is better, sterling silver or silver plated jewellery?

Sterling silver as we know is often made up of pure silver combined with a small percentage of copper. Adversely, silver plated jewellery contains only an alloy of real silver, with a base metal of nickel, copper, brass or white metal constituting a majority of the compound. 

Over time, silver plated jewellery will begin to fade and tarnish away, exposing the base metal. Those who have sensitive skin may find a reaction occurs when this happens because of the presence of nickel. You may find after purchasing jewellery from high street shops that the silver layer has worn off to reveal a different coloured metal below. We can guarantee you, our jewellery will never do that!

There’s no doubt that 925 sterling silver jewellery is better than silver plated jewellery in appearance, quality and longevity of life. Take a look at some of our sterling silver bracelet ranges to see the quality sterling silver jewellery you can expect from us.

You might know that gold plated jewellery is another example of sterling silver jewellery where the metal top coating may rub off and tarnish. Sometimes it isn't declared how thick the plating is so it could a very thin layer resulting in the sterling silver peeking through once it wears off. If you are going to indulge in gold jewellery and can't afford solid gold, go for vermeil.

How to spot fake silver: Tips on how to find out if your silver is fake or real

All too often fake silver is sold to people under the pretense that it is real silver. It may have the high shine and colour of sterling silver but underneath it is a totally different story. We’ve put together some fast and easy tips below on how to spot fake silver so you can always know your stuff.

  1. As you know, the first thing you should look for is the hallmark. No hallmark, chances are it’s not real silver.
  2. Handle the piece of jewellery. How does it feel? If it is easily bendable and soft, it is probably real silver. If the jewellery feels firm and stiff chances are it is not. For a professional assessment, take it to an expert.
  3. Silver and copper are non magnetic, and most precious metals are no different. As a result, if you use a magnet near your jewellery item it should not be drawn to the metal. If it is, it means your item may be made of another metal like cobalt or iron.
  4. Hold the jewellery piece close to your nose and smell it! It may sound like an unconventional method but sterling silver has no odour, so a metallic smell may suggest fake silver. You might remember that strong metallic smell from jewellery you wore as a teenager (which certainly wasn’t real silver and definitely left a green mark on your finger). We at Aquila remember those days well!
  5. Put ice on the piece of silver in question. If it is real silver, it will melt quicker. You could use a piece of genuine silver as a comparison and study the rate at which the ice melts.
  6. For those of you that want to get all sciencey, you can (safely and carefully) do the acid test. You can easily pick up a set or bottle from various online marketplaces online. The acid is generally a mix of muriatic acid and nitric acid so as with any acid, wear eye protection and gloves. Follow the instructions on the set/bottle which will tell you to put a drop of acid on the silver and see what colour it turns; whatever colour is the 'right' or 'wrong' colour depends on what the instructions say.

When silver starts to tarnish, does that mean it is fake?

No, it doesn’t. If sterling silver begins to tarnish it doesn’t mean that all pieces of jewellery that do so are low quality or fake; in fact, it is totally normal for it to tarnish after contact with skin, skincare products or sweat. The Victoria and Albert Museum offers a more in-depth look at the topic in their Conservation Journal Issue 18 Tarnishing of Silver: A Short Review. We wrote an informative blog post all about sterling silver and tarnishing.

How do you look after your new piece of silver jewellery?

Learn super easy tips on how to clean and maintain your sterling silver jewellery here. Basic upkeep tips are: 

  • Keep your hands and jewellery dry - if you are going to moisten your hands with lotion or when washing them for example, take off your jewellery. 
  • Store your jewellery in cloth pouches, ideally with individual pieces in separate pouches , or in a dry, clean jewellery box which has individual compartments.
  • Clean your jewellery when you notice it losing its lustre.
  • Take off your jewellery if you are going to sweat with the perfect example being the gym.

Create regular rituals around cleaning and maintaining your jewellery and you will find yourself forming great habits that help to extend its life and appearance. After all, our jewellery can be very sentimental to us and the things that are important to us are always worth taking the time to care for.


Any questions? Use our Contact Us form to get in touch.

 

The Aquila Jewellery Team

 

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