Silver jewelry has been a staple in the lives of mankind since humans discovered the versatility of silver and the many uses it has. Silver has been used for functional and aesthetic purposes. In times of old, silver was used to create flatware and armor to protect soldiers on their way into battle. Silver jewelry was later created and used by Phoenician and Egyptian citizens desiring attractive and convenient pieces to add to their jewelry collections. Over time silver has been used to create flatware, decorative art, coins, dental fillings, jewelry and more.
Silver is produced in many different areas, though the highest concentrations of silver output come from Mexico and Peru.
One of the reasons sterling silver jewelry is so popular is its affordability and versatility. Sterling silver can be crafted into many different jewelry items including charms, rings and chains. Silver jewelry is often mistaken for other more precious metals including white gold and platinum.
Common Types of Silver
There are many different types of silver that can be used to create sterling silver jewelry. Silver is considered one of the precious metals along with its cousins gold, platinum and titanium.
Fine Silver – this is silver in its most natural state, when it is considered 99% pure. Often this type of silver is too soft to create ordinary products and is almost liquid in form. Usually silver has to be mixed with other metal alloys in order to create jewelry and household wear.
Sterling Silver – sterling is a mixture of fine silver and other metal alloys. The silver is considered about 92.5% pure. Sterling is usually combined with approximately 7.5% copper to make the jewelry more long lasting and durable. Sterling silver jewelry is usually marked on the inside with a “925”, indicative of its purity. Sterling silver jewelry made of just the right combination of silver and metal allows a jeweler to create a long lasting, durable piece that is shiny and brilliant enough to be mistaken for more expensive precious metals. Sterling silver is more likely to tarnish over time because of the presence of copper; however this relatively mild side effect can be minimized through proper care. By consistently cleaning your silver jewelry you’ll never even notice anything other than a beautiful shine and luster.
Silver Plating – plating occurs when a base metal such as nickel is covered with a layer of pure silver. This is often one of the most durable forms of silver, and is usually much less expensive than sterling silver because the percentage of pure silver in the jewelry is quite low. Most base metals need a re-coat of pure silver every few years to maintain a shiny outer coat and to prevent the base metal from peaking through the coating.
Nickel Silver – nickel silver is a combination of nickel, copper and zinc that is not actually silver, but resembles silver. It is an inexpensive and popular item that can be used to create look-alike jewelry.
Vermeil – this form of silver was popular in the eighteenth century. Silver is plated in gold, providing a polished and expensive looking custom piece of jewelry.
Caring for Silver Jewelry
Sterling silver jewelry does have a tendency to scratch more often than other metals, and may tarnish over time. Proper care can ensure however that the jewelry remains shiny and well kept. The following tips will ensure that your sterling silver lasts a long time and maintains its luster and original appearance:
- Sterling silver jewelry should be stored in a cool dry place to reduce environmental damage.
- Consider keeping each piece in an individual cloth pouch to prevent scratching.
- Use a jewelry cleaner or polishing solution at least once a month to clean the surface of silver jewelry to help maintain its luster.
- Use a soft cloth to clean silver; never use a toothbrush or other abrasive material that might result in scratching.
- Clean silver at the first signs of tarnishing, when a yellowish tint appears on the jewelry. If you wait until the silver has turned black, you’ll have to scrub harder and may damage the shine on the jewelry.
- Consider using chemical dipping agents which clean jewelry without scrubbing.
- Avoid cleaners that contain ammonia which can also turn silver jewelry black, consider soapy water instead.
Sterling silver is a popular item in part because it is more reflective than many precious metals. Proper care will ensure that silver jewelry remains beautiful for years to come. If you have other items in the house made of silver, such as silver wear or other household items, always use a cleaner or dip specifically designed to clean silver metal. Never put these items in a dishwasher, because you will scratch the surface and cause irreparable damage.
When buying silver jewelry, you should be prepared to take your time to select quality pieces, just as you would if selecting a more expensive jewelry item. Young consumers are often attracted to sterling silver jewelry because it is so affordable and beautiful. Sterling silver also comes in many contemporary and modern designs which are appealing to young consumers.
So what should you look for when shopping? First and foremost always check the interior for the 925 mark, to ensure that you are purchasing premium sterling silver rather than sterling silver plating. Keep in mind that the more pure the silver, the more soft and likely that a piece will scratch, so don’t go for anything more pure than sterling silver.
If you are looking to buy many different pieces, you might consider buying wholesale silver jewelry online. By doing so you’ll be able to buy in bulk, and acquire large amounts of silver jewelry at inexpensive prices. Many jewelers and home business owners get into the habit of buying wholesale silver jewelry online because they can re-sell the merchandise at a higher price. There are hundreds of pieces to choose from, and you might even find a collection with a certain theme that appeals to you or the people you might be selling to.