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Why Sterling Silver Is Used for Jewelry and Not Pure

Engrave these sterling silver baby gifts.
Sterling Silver Baby Gifts by Kiddie Kraft

There are a lot of ways sterling silver is used and jewelry is probably the most well-known. Although, silverware and other tableware is a close second. But why do you never see pure silver jewelry? Isn’t pure silver better than sterling silver?

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is an alloy, which means that pure silver is mixed with another metal. In the case of sterling silver the alloy is comprised of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal. That other metal is usually copper.

John Hardy men's bracelet design in sterling silver.
Classic Chain Anchor Rode Link Bracelet

The reason sterling silver exists is because it makes the perfect metal to use in practical items, such as goblets, silverware, teapot and baby’s first cup. Sterling silver is a soft metal that is easy to work with, but it is strong enough to hold up well in jewelry and other items. Pure silver is just way too soft to hold up and it would be bent out of shape and marred up in no time at all.

925 sterling silver earrings from John Hardy Company
Chandelier Earrings designed by the John Hardy Company

Types of Sterling Silver

Not all jewelry and tableware are pure sterling silver. Most of these items are only plated with silver. So, that outer layer is actually almost pure (.999) silver to make it look like it is a pure silver object. These items are sometimes sold as sterling silver fakes, but they are usually not stamped sterling silver on the bottom. Although, sometimes sterling silver is also layered with pure silver in this way to brighten up the finish, sometimes the silver plating is in addition to the sterling silver core. Sterling silver items might also be plated with the very shiny, silver looking rhodium metal to brighten it up.

Pandora's rings are in sterling silver and various types of gold.
Butterfly Silver Ring Designed by Pandora

Which is Better?

If you are collecting silver for an investment then you will buy troy ounces (.999) bars of silver. But your jewelry, tableware and candlesticks should be made with sterling silver. Plating those usable items with pure silver or rhodium is optional.

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