Guide to finding good quality sterling silver jewellery
Let's get this out of the way: the first thing you need to understand is the silver used in jewellery is not pure silver. It is a silver alloy, a metal mixture of two or more elements. Pure silver is too soft for jewellery making, but sterling silver or 925 silver is the jewellery quality standard for most world markets.
So, how can you tell you have quality sterling silver jewellery? There are 6 tests to check if you're buying high-quality sterling silver.
- The 925 hallmarks or stamp
- The nitric acid test
- The magnetic test
- The Rubbing Test
- It has no smell
Some of these are easier to conduct than others.
Whether you are shopping online or in-store, people need to guarantee 925 sterling silver quality and the best value for your money. Continue to learn crucial tips for buying sterling silver jewellery and the other types of silver used in jewellery making.
How to tell your sterling silver jewellery is quality
Look for a Stamp/ Hallmark
Silver jewellery's rise in popularity led to the industry standardisation of sterling silver products. While the origin of every sterling silver piece is hard to identify, you can recognise authenticity by looking for a small inner inscription on your piece.
Look for the stamp symbols "Ster," "925", "S925," or "Sterling Silver." The 925 hallmark is the quickest way to indicate genuine sterling silver. However, only jewellery items or components with the available surface area will bear the stamp. Therefore, small items are often unstamped despite quality alloys.
Governments regulate silver with slight variations across countries. Most laws state that plated silver material is not stamped or hallmarked on the surface. Jewellery makers mark cheaper plated silver as "silver-plated."
A Chemical Test
Some sterling silver jewellery may not have a hallmark or stamp. However, a jeweller or expert can use nitric acid to determine authenticity.
Nitric acid does not have any effect on authentic sterling silver jewellery. However, the acid affects fake or silver-plating, causing bubbles and green colouration.
Many established jewellery dealers will propose the Nitric acid test to attest to the quality of their products. Though we do not advise you to conduct the test yourself at home, if you do, gloves and goggles will prevent any injuries.
The Magnet Test
Hold an ordinary magnet above or near the silver jewellery. Pure silver is not magnetic, and as sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, the piece should not attract. If the piece is drawn to the magnet, it is either silver-plated or silver-filled jewellery that contains a significant percentage of metal than silver.
The Rubbing Test
Perhaps the most straightforward test to determine your 925 silver jewellery quality. Rub your silver piece with a soft cloth and check the surface. Black marks on the fabric indicate the authenticity of the sterling silver piece as real silver oxidises on exposure to the air. The tarnish left on the cloth is a byproduct of the oxidisation and indicates lower grade silver alloys.
The Smell Test
Many cheap metals have a distinctive smell. High-quality sterling silver metal has no scent. If your jewellery piece has a noticeable odour, it usually indicates a high copper alloy percentage, diminishing its value and quality.
X-rays are used to determine the silver content in an alloy, and it is favoured as it is non-destructive, though arguably the most difficult to perform out of the six tests. The test is reasonably accurate on most silver items, but layers and some plating types may vary results. The jewellery must be sent to a lab for testing. It is expensive, making it an unsuitable test at purchasing or for any everyday jewellery wearer.
What Are the Different Types of Silver?
Fine silver or .999 silver is the closest to silver in the purest form. It is marked .999 indicating 99.9% purity, while the 0.1% consists of trace elements. Fine silver has a more vitreous lustre appearing slightly duller. It will scratch, dent and change shape fairly easily as the material is soft. For that reason, we don't commonly use it in jewellery.
However, fine silver forms easily, fuses without soldering, and is highly tarnish-resistant - so some designers enjoy using it. It is best for earrings or necklaces instead of rings or bracelets that are more likely to wear and tear.
Sterling .925 Silver
Sterling silver or 925 silver is the jewellery quality standard for most world markets. The remaining 7.5% metal increases the material's hardness, durability, and lustre. The metal is usually copper, but other metals such as nickel are also common.
The silver alloy is more likely to tarnish than pure silver but easy to clean with readily available polishing products. It is commonly stamped with .925, Stg or S925.
ARgentium Silver and Non-Tarnish Alloys
This type of silver alloy is reasonably new to the market. Argentium silver is a non-tarnish kind of brand. These pieces have a minimum of 92.5% silver content or higher. The 7.5% remainder consists of copper and germanium element. Germanium makes the alloy harder and resistant to tarnish.
It is important to note that non-tarnish alloys can tarnish after extended periods and extreme conditions. However, they will generally require less maintenance than sterling silver. The quality stamp will also indicate .925, but some manufacturers can get authorisation to use the mark Argentium(r). The Argentium(r) is rarely stamped onto silver pieces.
The name "coin silver" is a bit confusing. Today, coins are made from less precious metals. Monetary coins in the United Kingdom contain cupro-nickel, an alloy of copper and nickel. However, collectable coins or coin investments have higher silver content. Silver coins before 1947 were 50% silver or .500 silver. Coin silver jewellery will bear a quality stamp of .500, and many of these pieces are antiques.
Silver-filled is a layered metal that is not an alloy because the metal content is not consistent throughout the material. Instead, the sterling silver remains on the surface. Silver filled has a low silver content with 5% or 10% sterling silver with a brass core. Often these pieces are not stamped with any quality hallmarks.
Silver-plated jewellery has a skinny plating layer of silver on the surface. Silver plate jewellery has a small percentage of overall silver content, similar to silver-filled. It is considered affordable costume jewellery and can tarnish and wear off to expose the base metal. These do not have a quality stamp, but manufacturers' logos or hallmarks are common.
Nickel silver primarily consists of copper with nickel, zinc or a combination. These pieces are inexpensive, but it contains no real silver at all. It is used in costume jewellery, and manufacturers should disclose nickel concentration as many people are allergic to nickel.
Tribal silver, also known as Tibetan silver, are base metal alloys that are silver only in appearance. Much of the items have limited to no silver content. These imports can contain dangerous metals such as lead. Buyer beware.
Jewellery marked as "silver" is a bit of a mystery and is used loosely as a colour descriptor, especially in fashion. Always be cautious of vendors calling their items "silver jewellery."
Why is sterling silver good for jewellery?
We love sterling silver jewellery. Let us tell you why:
- Sterling silver jewellery is long-lasting and durable.
- 925 silver jewellery is always in style no matter the time of year.
- Where gold is costly and valuable, silver is more reasonably priced and affordable.
- Sterling silver jewellery makes excellent gift choices. People of all ages love pretty silver jewellery. It can be a pendant, a ring, earrings, a bracelet or a necklace.
- Sterling silver is hypoallergenic, so it is excellent for people who suffer from skin irritation and have allergic reactions to metal. Fake and metallic jewellery causes rashes and itching on the skin.
- It is easy to mix with other metals such as rose or white gold jewellery.
How to care for your sterling silver jewellery
Get your sterling silver pieces to last longer with these few simple precautions:
- Ensure it is worn regularly;
- Store it in a dark place away from air and water exposure;
- Clean your silver items with anti-tarnish liquids and soft polishing cloth;
- Avoid chlorinated water or exposing it to harsh chemicals.
Start Your Silver Jewellery Collection Today
All that is beautiful isn't gold. Enjoy high-quality, versatile and sterling silver prices! Remember, this precious metal is a must in your jewellery collection.
Dephini uses the highest-quality, real sterling silver jewellery in our necklace, pendants and ring design. And, we stunning gold jewellery pieces that will make you smile.
Dephini's stunning sterling lister heart inspired collection uses the finest Italian 925 sterling silver. Our necklace designs feature CZ crystal along with the heart pendant. It is accompanied by an elegant and delicate sterling silver chain.
Our sterling silver heart earrings and heart necklace make the perfect gift set for your wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter. Want to know more. Visit the Dephini Store today.