Last updated on May 24, 2023
Sterling silver is a beautiful and versatile metal used in jewellery-making for centuries. Its unique properties make it a perfect choice for creating exquisite jewellery pieces; however, with so many different styles and designs available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This article will guide you through everything you need to know about sterling silver jewellery, from its rich history to its properties and care tips.
History of Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is an alloy made of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. The additional metals are added to provide strength, durability, and resistance to scratches and wear, as pure silver is a relatively soft metal.
The first known use of sterling silver dates back to the 12th century in England, where it was used for the currency of the same name. This currency was known for its high quality and purity. Over time, the term “sterling” came to be associated with any object made from high-quality silver, including jewellery.
During the 13th century, the use of sterling silver began to spread throughout Europe as trade routes opened up and merchants became more prosperous. By the 14th century, sterling silver had become the preferred material for creating household items, such as cutlery, goblets, and candlesticks, as well as for making decorative objects.
In the 16th century, the English government began to regulate the production of sterling silver, requiring that all silver items be made from a minimum of 92.5% pure silver. This standard, which is still in use today, is known as the sterling silver standard.
Over the centuries, sterling silver continued to be prized for its beauty and durability, and it became a symbol of wealth and status. In the 18th and 19th centuries, silverware became increasingly ornate, with intricate designs and patterns, and it was often used as a way to display one’s wealth and social standing.
In the 20th century, sterling silver began to be used more widely in the creation of jewellery, and it remains a popular and versatile metal today.
Sterling Silver Hallmarks
Sterling silver hallmarks are marks that are stamped onto pieces of silverware or jewellery to indicate their authenticity and quality. These hallmarks have a long history that dates back to the 14th century when they were first introduced in England to protect consumers from fraud and ensure they were getting genuine silver items.
The hallmarking process involves stamping a series of marks onto the silver item, which typically includes the maker’s mark, the standard mark, the assay office mark, and the date letter mark. The maker’s mark identifies the maker of the item, while the 925 standard mark indicates that the item is made from the required minimum of 92.5% pure silver. The assay office mark identifies the office where the item was assayed, and the date letter mark indicates the year in which the item was tested and marked. The hallmarks used to identify sterling silver vary depending on the country and may feature unique historical symbols.
In addition to the standard hallmarks, some items may also feature additional marks, such as a duty mark, which indicates that a tax was paid on the item, or a sponsor’s mark, which identifies the company that sponsored the item for hallmarking.
Today, hallmarks are still used to authenticate sterling silver items and to ensure that they meet the required standards of purity and quality. They are typically stamped onto the item in a discreet location, such as the inside of a ring or the bottom of a silverware piece. By checking for these hallmarks, consumers can be sure they are getting genuine sterling silver items of the highest quality.
Common Uses for Sterling Silver in Jewellery
Sterling silver jewellery comes in a wide range of styles and designs. From classic pieces like hoop earrings and simple pendants to more elaborate designs like statement necklaces and bangles, there is something for everyone. Some popular styles of sterling silver jewellery include:
- Rings: Sterling silver rings are popular due to their affordability and beauty. They are available in a wide range of styles, from simple bands to bold designs featuring gemstones or intricate details.
- Earrings: Sterling silver earrings come in a variety of styles, from classic studs to long, dangling chandelier earrings. They are lightweight and comfortable, making them a popular choice for everyday wear.
- Bracelets: Sterling silver bracelets are versatile and can be worn alone or layered with other bracelets. They can be simple and understated or feature intricate designs and gemstones.
- Necklaces: Sterling silver necklaces are available in a wide range of styles, from delicate chains to statement pieces featuring pendants or gemstones. They can be worn alone or layered with other necklaces for a trendy, bohemian look.
- Charms: Sterling silver charms are a popular way to personalize jewellery, such as charm bracelets or necklaces. They can feature a variety of designs, from simple shapes to intricate details, and can be used to represent hobbies, interests, or special memories.
Overall, sterling silver is a versatile material that can be used in a variety of jewellery designs. Its affordability and durability make it a popular choice for both everyday wear and special occasions.
Caring for Sterling Silver Jewellery
While sterling silver is durable and long-lasting, it does require some care to maintain its shine and beauty. Below are some tips for caring for your sterling silver jewellery:
- Store it properly: When not in use, store your sterling silver jewellery in a cool, dry place, such as a jewellery box or a pouch. Avoid storing it in humid or damp areas, as this can cause tarnishing.
- Keep it clean: Regularly clean your sterling silver jewellery to remove dirt and oils that can accumulate over time. You can use a soft cloth or a jewellery polishing cloth to gently clean the silver. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or brushes, as these can scratch the surface.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals: Sterling silver jewellery can be damaged by exposure to chemicals such as bleach, chlorine, and hair products. Remove your jewellery before swimming or showering, and avoid contact with cleaning products or other chemicals.
- Wear it often: Surprisingly, wearing your sterling silver jewellery often can actually help to prevent tarnishing. The oils in your skin help to protect the silver and keep it looking bright and shiny.
- Get it professionally cleaned: If your sterling silver jewellery has become heavily tarnished or damaged, consider taking it to a professional jeweller for cleaning or repair.
By following these simple tips, you can help to keep your sterling silver jewellery looking beautiful and shiny for years to come. With proper care and maintenance, it can become a treasured part of your jewellery collection.
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