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Article: What Is Sterling Silver Jewellery? The Ultimate Guide

male wearing sterling silver chain and bracelet

What Is Sterling Silver Jewellery? The Ultimate Guide

Whether you’re knowledgeable about sterling silver or just starting to explore silver accessories, understanding what sterling silver jewellery is and how it compares to other jewellery is essential.

In this comprehensive blog post, we delve into what sterling silver jewellery is and how to identify genuine pieces. We’ll also compare sterling silver jewellery with other popular types of jewellery including stainless steel, brass and aluminium jewellery. If any of this interests you, read on!

What is sterling silver jewellery?

sterling silver jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery is made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. Often, pure silver is alloyed with other metals like copper to increase its durability while making the material easier to work with.

Any genuine sterling silver jewellery piece will have a marking to indicate its purity. Often, you will see a “925” hallmark on real silver pieces.

One aspect of sterling silver jewellery to be aware of is that it does tarnish. This is because there is copper present within the metal alloy. This happens gradually over time with repeated exposure to moisture and body oils. This tarnish and discolouration can be removed using baking soda or jewellery tarnish remover solution, which will have your pieces looking as good as new. One benefit of sterling silver jewellery is that it will never rust or turn green.

How can you tell if jewellery is made from sterling silver?

925 hallmark on sterling silver jewellery

To determine whether your silver jewellery piece is made from genuine silver or sterling silver, several methods can be employed.

The easiest ways to tell if your jewellery is real sterling silver is to inspect the piece for “925” hallmarks, test for softness and sound, check for a lack of odour, test the piece using a magnet (silver is not magnetic), or conduct the silver ice test (silver has high thermal conductivity and thus will melt ice faster than other non-precious silver metals).

More advanced methods of testing your if sterling silver jewellery is real involve XRF analysis, nitric acid tests, professional appraisals, and even lab testing for precise results.

For a more detailed look into each of these methods, make sure to read our comprehensive blog post on how to determine if jewellery is made from sterling silver.

How long does sterling silver jewellery last?

sterling silver jewellery stacked

How long your sterling silver jewellery will last depends on the quality of metal used, frequency of wear, care, and whether it is plated. High-quality manufacturing and proper maintenance can extend its life significantly.

Silver-plated jewellery typically lasts 2-4 years, whilst gold, platinum, and rhodium-plated sterling silver vary in lifespan depending on the plating thickness and quality of care.

To properly care for your sterling silver jewellery, you need to regularly clean your pieces and avoid exposure to harsh elements. When you’re not wearing your jewellery, store it in a dry, cool place.

In general, with the right care, sterling silver jewellery can last many years and be passed down for many generations.

For a more detailed exploration of these factors and tips on extending the life of your sterling silver jewellery, check out our blog which answers the question “How long does sterling silver jewellery last?"

Is sterling silver considered fine jewellery?

male wearing sterling silver jewellery

Yes, sterling silver jewellery is considered fine jewellery. Fine jewellery refers to any pieces that are made with mostly precious metals or gemstones. Since sterling silver jewellery consists of 97.5% silver (which is a precious metal) it fall within this category. 

Is silver plated jewellery good?

Silver plated jewellery has it's own set of pros and cons. Some of the main benefits of silver plated jewellery is that it is affordable and has a similar appearance to real sterling silver jewellery. The cons of silver plated jewellery is that the silver layer is thin and prone to tarnishing and fading over time. This thin silver layer also means that there are greater maintenance requirements for these pieces to maintain their appearance. 

Is sterling silver jewellery costume jewellery?

No, sterling silver jewellery is not classed as costume jewellery. This is because sterling silver jewellery consists mostly of pure silver (92.5%) which is a precious metal. Costume jewellery is often made from base metals like brass, copper or aluminium and may feature thin platings of precious metals or imitation stones. 

How do you clean sterling silver jewellery?

cleaning sterling silver jewellery

Maintaining the shine of sterling silver jewellery involves regular cleaning using various methods. Household items like baking soda, vinegar, dish soap, lemon juice, and olive oil can effectively clean silver. Using more specialised items like polishing cloths, saline solutions, and ultrasonic cleaners often offer a more thorough option, but are usually more costly.

For everyday cleaning, we recommend using dish soap and water to clean your pieces. For a more thorough cleaning, baking soda and vinegar are ideal.

For more tarnished pieces, you may want to use a polishing cloth and silver cleaning solution.

In general, though, you will want to avoid using harsh chemicals and scrubs as these can damage your jewellery pieces while cleaning. In addition to this, you will want to properly store your silver jewellery pieces when they are not being worn.

Learn more about maintaining sterling silver jewellery by reading our blog post which covers how to clean sterling silver jewellery

Sterling silver vs gold jewellery: which is better?

sterling silver and gold jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery is valued for its affordability, hypoallergenic properties, and easy repairability while also having value in being made from a precious metal. Gold jewellery is highly sought after due to its high value, durability, and minimal maintenance requirements.

Both of these types of jewellery also have their drawbacks. Sterling silver jewellery requires regular maintenance to maintain its shine and lustre due to tarnishing. Whilst gold jewellery is more expensive and can contain nickel at lower karats, which can lead to skin allergies.

Find out whether sterling silver or gold jewellery is better for you by reading our blog which compares sterling silver vs gold jewellery.

Sterling silver vs white gold jewellery: which is better?

sterling silver and white gold jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery is more affordable, hypoallergenic, versatile, and easy to repair. However, sterling silver is also more prone to tarnishing and is less durable as an everyday piece.

White gold jewellery offers a shinier appearance than sterling silver, greater durability, and is resistant to tarnishing. However, if white gold jewellery is rhodium plated, the plating will need to be replaced occasionally which can be a hassle.

Still unsure which silver jewellery piece is right for you? Find out more by reading our blog that compares sterling silver vs white gold jewellery.

Sterling silver vs aluminium jewellery: which is better?

sterling silver and aluminium jewellery

Sterling silver is a higher-value piece that is hypoallergenic, resistant to tarnishing, and has a luxurious appearance. However, jewellery made from sterling silver tends to be more expensive and requires more care and maintenance.

Aluminium jewellery is made using bauxite which enhances its hypoallergenic properties and resistance to tarnishing. In addition to this, jewellery made from aluminium tends to be more affordable and has a lightweight design. However, it lacks value as aluminium is not a precious metal.

Still not sure which type of jewellery to choose? Check out our blog post which compares sterling silver vs aluminium jewellery

Sterling silver vs brass jewellery: which is better?

Sterling silver jewellery offers many advantages including hypoallergenic properties, resistance to tarnishing, and a luxurious appearance. However, a drawback of sterling silver jewellery is the regular maintenance. Sterling silver is also much more expensive than jewellery made from non-precious metals.

On the other hand, brass jewellery is made using a copper-zinc alloy, making it more affordable and lightweight. The main drawback of brass jewellery is that it is very prone to tarnishing and fading when exposed to moisture and body oil.

Not sure whether you should prioritise longevity or affordability? Read our comprehensive blog which compares sterling silver vs brass jewellery

Rhodium plated vs sterling silver jewellery: which is better?

sterling silver and rhodium jewellery

Rhodium-plated jewellery that features a sterling silver base offers enhanced durability, shine, and hypoallergenic properties however tends to be priced much higher than standard sterling silver jewellery. In addition to this, rhodium plating has greater maintenance requirements to preserve the plating.

Sterling silver jewellery that doesn’t feature rhodium plating is more affordable, retains its value and is easier to repair. However, because there is no plating, it is more prone to tarnishing.

Choosing between these two jewellery pieces depends on your personal preferences, budget, and styling needs. Still unsure which type of jewellery to choose? Check out our rhodium-plated vs sterling silver jewellery blog.

Titanium vs sterling silver jewellery: which is better?

titanium and sterling silver jewellery

Titanium jewellery derived from titanium dioxide through a refining process boasts qualities such as tarnish resistance, a lightweight feel, great durability, and hypoallergenic properties. On the other hand, sterling silver jewellery is made from precious metal, has a bright white lustre, and is easy to repair.

Need more information on the differences between these two types of jewellery? Check out our blog which compares titanium vs sterling silver jewellery.

Sterling silver vs silver-plated jewellery: which is better?

sterling silver and silver plated jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery often features intricate designs, is easy to repair, and has an iconic appearance. Being made using 92.5% silver, these pieces have a higher value and tend to be more expensive.

In contrast, silver-plated jewellery only features a thin layer of silver coating on a base metal. Silver-plated jewellery has a similar appearance to solid sterling silver but at a fraction of the cost. This is because the base metal of silver-plated jewellery is usually made of non-precious metals like stainless steel or brass.

Read our comprehensive guide which compares sterling silver vs silver-plated jewellery to learn more! 

Sterling silver vs stainless steel jewellery: which is better?

stainless steel and sterling silver jewellery

Stainless steel jewellery features a chromium protective layer that enhances its tarnish and corrosion resistance. This chromium protective layer also makes the jewellery more durable and scratch-resistant. Because stainless steel is a non-precious metal, it also tends to be more affordable than other types of jewellery.

On the other hand, sterling silver jewellery offers a greater lustre, higher value, and often more intricate designs. However, a drawback of sterling silver jewellery is that it is a lot more expensive than stainless steel jewellery.

Want to find out which is best for you? Check out our blog post which compares sterling silver vs stainless steel jewellery

Gold-plated stainless steel vs gold-plated sterling silver: which is better?

gold plated stainless steel and sterling silver
Gold-plated stainless steel offers great durability and hypoallergenic properties and is generally low maintenance. These pieces tend to feature a thin layer of gold plating, which means that they are less valuable.

Conversely, gold-plated sterling silver is more authentic, has greater value, has a more lightweight feel and tends to be more versatile. However, gold-plated sterling silver is more prone to tarnishing, is less hypoallergenic, and is more expensive.

Want to learn more about both gold-plated stainless steel and sterling silver? Check out our blog post which compares gold-plated stainless steel vs gold-plated sterling silver.

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