Frequently asked questions about jewelry

What is Silver?


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What is Silver?

Silver is a precious metal and, much like gold, is too fine to be utilized in its pure form.

What does .925 mean?

To make silver durable enough for use in jewelry, pure silver, which has a .999 fineness (99.9%), is often alloyed with small quantities of copper (7.5%). The copper is added to strengthen the silver and the resulting product is .925 sterling silver (92.5%). Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include: sterling, sterling silver, ster, and .925

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper.

Why does silver tarnish?

Tarnish is a dulling which naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the air. Most people think silver tarnishes due to oxidation. But, chemically speaking, silver is not very reactive—it does not react with oxygen or water at normal temperatures. However, other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air.

How do you care for silver jewelry?

Care should be taken to avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals when cleaning with bleach or ammonia, or when swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage silver.

How to clean silver jewelry?

The best way to keep your silver jewelry clean is by wearing it often. However, humidity and storing the silver can tarnish the piece, also known as oxidation, which will give the silver a darkish black color. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible.

There are several methods to clean your tarnished silver. A popular method is to use a liquid silver cleaner (which smells like rotten eggs) that you can purchase at a jewelry store or a Walmart or Target. Put the piece of silver in the little tray, swish it around, and the original beautiful silver shine is restored.

A silver polishing cloth formulated specifically to remove tarnish is effective in cleaning silver jewelry.

Another great method for cleaning sterling silver jewelry, especially when you don't have silver cleaner or a polishing cloth at home, is toothpaste! Put some toothpaste on an old toothbrush and gently rub the toothpaste into the silver. Let it sit for a few minutes and wash it off. If you're trying to shine a chain, put toothpaste on the chain and pull it through a wash cloth or paper towel. You'll see the cloth turn black and you'll know you're cleaning the piece.

The aluminum foil method also works great. Fill a bowl or jar halfway with hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the bowl or a little more, depending on the size of the bowl. Mix the salt until it dissolves. Add a few strips of aluminum foil to the bowl. Add the silver jewelry to the bowl. Stir it around and let it sit for a few minutes. The aluminum foil interacts with the salt and removes the tarnish off the silver. Rinse the jewelry with water. This process may need to be repeated a few times, but it is very effective in restoring your silver jewelry to its original shine.

Particularly valuable or antique pieces of silver should always be hand-polished, as buffing can permanently damage such a piece.

What is the difference between sterling silver and silverplated?

Sterling silver items contain a minimum of 92.5% pure silver. Silver-plated items are made of a lesser quality metal and then covered with a thin layer of silver, making them less valuable than objects made of sterling silver. Sterling silver will last for a long time if cared for properly, whereas silver-plating generally does not last longer than 20 years. Fluorescent x-rays are used by those in the jewelry industry to distinguish between sterling silver and silver-plated items. A scratch test can also be used, but runs the risk of damaging the item being examined.

What is the difference between silver, white gold, and platinum?

Silver, platinum, and white gold are considered “white” metals when used for jewelry, although they are all silver in appearance. The three metals may look similar, but they are very different in content. Sterling silver is the least expensive of the three metals and is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. It is the softest of the three metals and tarnishes over time, but with frequent and proper cleaning, it serves as an alternative to platinum and white gold because of its lower price.

White gold is a harder metal than silver and is often used for settings of precious stones. White gold is more durable than silver, it does not tarnish, and it holds its shine very well. Like yellow gold, white gold holds up fairly well over time under normal wear. However, it is considerably more expensive than sterling silver and is typically reserved for more elegant jewelry such as engagement and wedding rings.

Platinum is the “premium” white metal. It is the hardest and most durable white metal and is often chosen for rings and ring settings by people who appreciate the wear and tear to which hand jewelry can be exposed. Platinum can take much more day-to-day abuse before needing to be repaired, whereas silver and white gold need more care. Platinum’s durability and longevity is reflected in its cost, however. A $20 sterling silver ring would cost about $200 in white gold and the same ring might cost around $600 in platinum.

What is argentium silver?

Argentium is a form of sterling silver that is composed of the same amount of silver as sterling silver- 92.5% - however germanium is added to the copper to make up the remaining 7.5% of the element. This addition helps to prevent rapid tarnishing, and is quickly becoming a modern trend. It is still considered a hypoallergenic metal.