Difference Between Silver and Sterling Silver
Silver vs. Sterling Silver
Often, sterling silver and silver are described as the same thing, but in reality, sterling silver is only an alloy of silver. Silver, which is usually called fine silver, consists of 99.9% pure silver. On the other hand, sterling silver consists of approximately 92.5% silver, and the remaining 7.5% (or even more) is of other metals. Because of the high percentage of silver in ‘pure silver,’ it cannot be used to make those daily rough and tuff items. Pure silver is just too soft if it is to be made or shaped into such items.
Therefore, metal experts add other metals like copper, steel, or iron as substitutes for silver, but they will only serve to fill 7.5 to 8% of the entire metal so that the items made from the combination can stay in their shapes. When one adds other metals to silver to stabilize its shape, he or she is in the process of making sterling silver. The most common use of such is seen in making various utensils, like forks, knives, spoons, coffee sets and many others.
Sterling silver easily loses its luster in many situations; but in the case of pure silver, it will remain non-responsive to tarnish on its surface. This is because tarnish is more responsive in alloy metals. To test the tarnish tendency of a metal or alloy, you simply have to rub your finger tightly over a shiny piece of your sample material. In sterling silvers, you usually find some dull smudges on your skin. Nevertheless, you can keep your sterling silver items shiny by using a cloth or cotton to regularly and gently clean its surface. Moreover, if you do not use your sterling silver items for a prolonged period of time, you may notice that tarnish starts to appear.
As far as the uses of silver are concerned, it is used to make fine jewelry and silverware items, as it is a very ductile and lustrous metal. In addition, one of the main characteristics of silver is that it can stay stable in oxygen and water, but it also gets tarnished when it is exposed to sulfur compounds in the air or in a water medium, resulting in a black sulfide layer. Nearly 35% of silver products are used in the photographic industry as well. Lastly, even if silver is known as a nontoxic metal, its salt sometimes tends to be poisonous.
In summary, there are two major differences between silver and sterling silver:
1. Sterling silver is mainly an alloy of silver, consisting of nearly 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% other metals, like copper, which make it less expensive. Fine silver is composed of 99.9% pure silver, and it is a bit more expensive. That’s why it is used for making jewelry, and also in the photography industry.
2. Sterling silver is very sensitive to air and water, and it can easily get tarnished on its surface, whereas silver is like gold, which does not tarnish even if it is in constant contact with air and water.
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Written by : Julita. and updated on March 9, 2010
Julita. "Difference Between Silver and Sterling Silver." DifferenceBetween.net. March 9, 2010 < http://www.differencebetween.net/object/difference-between-silver-and-sterling-silver/ >.