Silver is a metal that has been linked to wealth and luxury for centuries. It even has the ‘silver spoon’ analogy derived from it to signify wealth and privilege.
Silver is listed as a precious metal alongside gold, platinum, and palladium. This is because these are rare metals. Even so, silver has been in use since 3000BC and is highly valued for its numerous purposes. It is a favorite metal for crafting timeless jewelry pieces and decorative ornaments. Because of its antibacterial and electricity conducting abilities, silver is also a preferred material for making surgical and technological instruments.
Types of silver
While it is ideal for many uses, silver is most commonly used to make jewelry ornaments. These include silver bracelets for women and men, silver rings, chains, anklets, and many other ornaments. Silver comes in many variations.
This an alloy made from 92.5% silver metal and 7.5% of another metal like copper or nickel. These metals are used to create alloys of silver because of their durability and strength. This way, the silver metal can be bent and molded into different strong shapes. Sterling silver is the most commonly used metal when it comes to making jewelry.
How to identify sterling silver
When buying silver jewelry, you can determine whether it is genuine sterling silver by checking for the sterling silver hallmark. Common hallmarks include .925, STER, STERL, STG, STERLING or simply ‘sterling silver’ stamped under the ring or on a bracelet. Silver from European origin usually has the number 800 stamped on it.
Sterling silver is an alloy that can last for generations. Scratches can be fixed by occasionally polishing it to a smooth finish. Repairs and resizing jewelry made from sterling silver is affordable. This makes maintaining sterling silver bracelets, rings, or other jewelry pieces easy.
This is a thin layer of silver that is used to coat an ornament made from other base metals like copper. Since it has much less silver component, it is not as durable as sterling or fine silver. This makes it of lower value than other forms of silver. Over time, the plating discolors and may need a fresh coat.
Fine silver is a variation of silver that is closest to 100% pure silver. It is 99% silver and 1% trace elements. The .999 hallmark identifies fine silver. While this may seem like the best silver to use for jewelry, it is very soft and thus cannot be used to craft jewelry. It is easy to damage and can lose shape over time. When used to make jewelry, it is best for making pendants and earrings as opposed to rings, necklaces, and bracelets which are exposed to rough wear.
Other forms of silver available in the market include coin silver Britannia silver, nickel silver, German silver, Mexican silver, and tribal silver. The quality of these varies based on the percentage of silver metal used to create the alloys.
Caring for silver jewelry
When you own sterling silver bracelets, rings, or chains, you will notice that they lose their shine over time. The only type of silver that does not tarnish is fine silver.
Silver ornaments tarnish because the metal used to create the alloy reacts with the atmosphere over time. They bind with the silver, and this causes discoloration.
Avoid exposing your silver ornaments to sprays, lotions, perfumes, and detergents if you do not want them to tarnish even faster.
To repair tarnished silver jewelry:
Use a cleaner – you can get silver cleaners readily in the market. Use a clean, soft cloth to buff the silver surface severally gently. After the clean, wash it in warm water and rinse off to dry.
Polishing –you can polish your silver using a special silver polishing cloth. When using the silver polish cloth, do not rub the jewelry in circles as this can worsen the scratches. You should rub back and forth.
If the tarnish is to badly off, you can take the silver piece to a jeweler for professional cleaning services.