Silver is super popular in the jewelry industry. It’s not hard to say why – various fashionable designs and long-term value investment, etc. But real silver jewelry does not come cheap. So it’s better to keep wide eyes on its authenticity if you’re likely to spend money on silver jewelry. Here we’ll talk about the things you should know and how to identify real sterling silver when buying silver jewelry.
- Sterling Silver VS 925 Silver
- How Much is Sterling 925 Silver Worth?
- How to Identify Silver when Buying?
- What to Do if 925 Silver Tarnished?
- Other Silver Types
Sterling Silver VS 925 Silver
On the market, most silver ornaments we see are marked as STER, Sterling or 925, which means they’re made of sterling silver. But you might wonder what is sterling silver. Unlike pure silver (99.99% silver), sterling silver is an alloy comprising 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or other metals. Due to this percentage of composition, we also call it 925 silver. So sterling silver and 925 silver often refer to the same thing but in different expressions.
Real silver jewelry often uses sterling silver or 925 silver rather than pure silver, because pure silver is too soft to come up with complex and creative designs. By introducing a few new metals, its strength can be significantly increased, making it an ideal choice to create valuably sophisticated, and stunning jewelry.
How Much is Sterling 925 Silver Worth?
For sure, real sterling 925 silver does not come cheap as its main element silver is one of the most expensive materials used in jewelry making. And the sterling silver price is closely related to how much is pure silver worth. Usually, it’s a little lower than pure silver due to other metals added. For example, the sterling silver price now is $26.06 per ounce while the silver price is $27.95 per ounce.
However, the specific price when buying sterling silver jewelry may vary by person. On one hand, 925 jewelry is mainly made of pure silver whose price fluctuates on the market. On the other hand, it may also depend on the size and designs of any 925 silver ring, bracelet, necklace, or chain, as well as the jewels and gemstones set into it. Besides, the jewelry brand’s value and influence should also be considered. For example, a piece of jewelry from a famous brand like Tiffany is far more expensive than one from a common online store.
How to Identify Silver when Buying?
The silver product market is quite complex and filled with fake ones. In order to identify authentic 925 sterling silver from others, it’s better to know some ways when buying silver jewelry:
Stamp Check: Most genuine silver jewelry often gets a quality hallmark related to its purity, like 925, SS, STG, S925, Ag 925, STER, or Sterling Silver. Usually, 925 jewelry will have a 925 stamp on it. So you can find if these hallmarks exist when taking a silver ornament. Without them, you may get a fake piece and should keep alert.
Weight Test: If you happen to know an item made of 925 sterling silver, then you can make a weight comparison. If they feel the same, you’re more likely to have a genuine piece of jewelry.
Magnetic Test: Sterling silver, the same as gold and platinum, is not magnetic. So an easy way to test real sterling silver jewelry is to see whether it will be attracted by a magnet.
Cloth Test: Due to easy oxidization in the air, the sterling silver will leave black marks if rubbed with a soft cloth. So if no black spots left, we can definitely say it’s not sterling silver.
Silver Smell: Sterling silver doesn’t have a metallic smell, so you can reject those silver jewelry with a heavy metallic smell like copper or any other metals.
Scientific Test: If possible, we can also conduct a Nitric Acid Test to check if they are sterling silver or not. In this case, we need to wear protective goggles and gloves and apply a few drops of nitric acid on a small silver sample to see its reaction. And it will turn creamy white if it’s 925 silver, or turn green or other colors if fake.
What to Do if 925 Silver Tarnished?
Sterling silver jewelry is shiny and beautiful when buying, but may tarnish over time due to extra metals other than silver added in. Fortunately, we have some ways to clean them up.
Use white vinegar or baking soda. An easy way is to mix some white vinegar or baking soda in a cup of water. Then soak the 925 jewelry into the solution for two or three hours. After that, give it a thorough rinse and dry them up.
Use Laundry Detergent. This is similar to the baking soda method. Line a bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with some hot water and a teaspoon of powdered laundry detergent. When the detergent has dissolved, soak the silver ornaments in the solution for a few minutes. The chemical reaction will help remove the tarnish. Finally, take the silver ornaments out, rinse and dry them up.
Use soapy water. Simply mix a bit of dish soap with some warm water and dip it in a soft cloth. Then rub the silver ornaments with the soapy cloth. When all the tarnish is removed, rinse them with cold water and dry them up.
Use toothpaste. This is also quite convenient. Take a microfiber cloth and dip in the toothpaste to rub the silver until the tarnish is gone. Then rinse with clean water and dry with a soft clean cloth.
Professional polishing service. You can also ask a professional cleaner for help. The stores selling silver ornaments usually provide silver polishing services. And we can also find many professional silver polishing services online.
Other Silver Types
Now that we’ve learned a lot about sterling silver or 925 silver. However, you might also see some other types of silver on the market, like fine silver, silver filled or plated products, Tibetan silver, Thailand silver, or Mexican silver. They’re totally different from 925 sterling silver, and some are even mainly made from base metals with very little silver included. Let’s take a look briefly.
Fine silver is quite equal to pure silver with a 99.9% silver content. They’re not often used in jewelry making because of too soft and easy to shape-changing.
Silver-filled or plated products are often a more or less layer of sterling silver fused with heat and pressure to another base metal, like brass, nickel, or zinc. They’re quite affordable but may cause allergies when wearing.
Tibetan, Thailand, or Mexican silver usually come up with quite unique designs but are still made by lower grade silver alloys from these regions, sometimes even containing dangerous metals like lead. Buyers should be alert. If you like, you can purchase them for the value of their designs, but not for the value of silver.
To sum up, 925 sterling silver, different from pure silver, is actually a silver alloy with 7.5% copper or other metals which are included to make it strong enough to easily work with. Genuine sterling 925 silver is quite valuable and well-worthy of long-term investment. But we need to be very cautious when buying silver jewelry to opt-in genuine 925 sterling silver and opt out of fake ones.