Sterling Silver vs Silver: What's the Difference?

When you’re shopping for silver jewelry, you may not think there is a huge difference between silver and sterling silver. That could not be further from the truth. 

The main difference between the two is the amount of pure silver present in the metal. Pure silver, as you might have guessed, is made up of almost 100% silver. Because of this, it is very soft and pliable...not ideal for handmade jewelry like ours. 

Sterling silver, however, is composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, like copper, nickel, or zinc. The combination of silver with these metals (most commonly copper) creates an alloy. This makes it much stronger and more durable than pure silver, which is perfect for creating beautiful and long-lasting necklaces, bracelets, earrings, or rings like you’ll find from our handcrafted designs. Many times, sterling silver jewelry is coated with pure silver to make the piece look shiny and vibrant. 

Silver jewelry should contain certain stamps, or hallmarks, to help you identify which type of silver it is. Pure silver is marked with “999”, while the most common hallmark for sterling silver is “925” (in the United States this is the required marking). These hallmarks are important to remember when looking at your silver jewelry as they should correlate with the percentage of silver which the jewelry contains. 

Here are just a few of the numerous advantages of sterling silver:

  • Great value - Sterling silver is the perfect metal for handmade jewelry and it is much less expensive than gold or platinum.
  • Durable - Because of the addition of copper (or sometimes nickel or zinc) to the alloy, sterling silver is long-lasting and durable.
  • Hypoallergenic - Sterling silver is perfect for those with sensitive skin. While some other metals can cause itchy or irritated skin, sterling silver jewelry gives you both beauty AND comfort!
  • It’ll last a lifetime - With proper cleaning and care, sterling silver jewelry can last a lifetime. Imagine being able to purchase a beautiful sterling silver necklace or bracelet that could be passed down for generations!

    Speaking of care, the longevity of sterling silver is extremely dependent on proper wearing habits. You can prevent tarnish by adhering to a few simple suggestions:

  • Wear the jewelry often - Believe it or not, the more you wear your favorite sterling silver earrings, bracelets, or other pieces of jewelry, the cleaner it will stay! The natural oils from your skin actually help to keep the silver shiny and clean.
  • Doing chores? Take it off - Before doing any cleaning or household chores, make sure to remove your sterling silver jewelry. Household cleaners, perspiration, or detergents can cause tarnishing.
  • Avoid direct sunlight - Going to the beach in the summer? Heading out for a day in the park? Make sure to remove your sterling silver jewelry beforehand. Sunlight can cause tarnishing.
  • Save your jewelry for last - During your daily routine, make sure to put your sterling silver pieces on last. Putting your jewelry on before applying lotions, makeup, or other beauty products can lead to tarnishing.

    Cleaning your sterling silver jewelry is also very important. Instead of going to a professional jeweler for cleaning, here are a few things you can do at home to keep your jewelry looking its best:

  • Soap and water - Most times you don’t need any kind of crazy cleaning products to keep your sterling silver looking shiny and new. Before anything else, use soap and water for a gentle clean.
  • Baking soda and water - If you need a deeper clean, try using baking soda instead of soap. Make a paste with the baking soda and water, scrubbing the jewelry gently with a cloth or toothbrush. 
  • White vinegar and baking soda - This is helpful for cleaning off heavier tarnish. Soak your sterling silver pieces in this mixture for a few hours, then rinse gently and pat dry.
  • DON’T use toothpaste - You may have heard of using toothpaste as a way to clean your sterling silver jewelry. While this may have been a fine strategy in the past, most current toothpaste brands use lots of harsh ingredients that can be harmful to your jewelry. Use one of the other cleaning techniques listed above instead!

    Now that you know the benefits of sterling silver jewelry and how you can make sure it lasts a lifetime, be sure to browse our handmade jewelry collection for hundreds of lovely designs, handcrafted with sterling silver and other beautiful stones like turquoise or topaz. And while you’re there, check out our accessories as well. We have some beautiful scarves you’ll love that will perfectly compliment our handcrafted jewelry.