The Difference Between Sterling Silver and 925 Silver
Sep 22, 2022
There are so many varieties of silver on the market that it is easy to get confused when you hear these terms, such as sterling silver, silver plate, pure silver, fine silver, 925 silver, coin silver, nickel silver and so on.
Silver is shiny, bright and casts that signature metallic glint we all know and love. It's timeless and trendy, and universally used in jewellery making. It's a tensile metal combining both beauty and durability. Designers—and buyers—can't get enough of silver.
Silver will likely never go out of style as it's been cherished for centuries, with origins of discovery in Greece and Turkey (formerly Anatolia) dating back to 3000 BC. Pure silver is precious but too soft to use in jewellery. Add a little alloy to the mix, and voila, you've got sterling silver! In addition to sterling silver, there's also silver plate, fine silver, pure silver, nickel silver, and 925 silver.
But is 925 sterling silver good?
If you're considering buying silver jewellery, you will undoubtedly want to know the difference between pure silver and 925 sterling silver. Well, pure silver is not really made up of only silver. It has 99.9% of silver and a small content composed of other metals such as Copper.
One common question that is asked is, what is the difference between sterling silver and 925 silver. The short answer is, there is none. Sterling silver and 925 silver are different names for the same silver alloy.
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver refers to an alloy created by mixing silver and other elements. It constitutes 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloy. The alloys can include nickel, copper or zinc.
Sterling silver is an alloy created when Copper is added to pure silver in order to make the resulting compound more durable and less soft.
Usually, sterling silver has a purity of 92.5%, meaning that 7.5% of the alloy is made of copper or another metal (usually nickel or zinc).
There is also the so-called coin silver, which is an alloy of lower purity: It usually contains 90% or less silver.
While Europe, the USA, and several other countries enforce a strict sterling silver standard at 92.5 silver to 7.5 other alloys, the standards of other countries such as France are at 95 silver to 5 other alloys. Nonetheless, the most common global standard is 92.5.
To improve silver's functionality, pure silver is mixed with other metals (usually copper). Sterling silver contains 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper or other alloys. Metals containing less than 92.5 per cent silver are not sterling.
The truth is, most silver jewellery that you purchase and put on, is sterling silver.
What Is 925 Silver?
925 silver is just sterling silver. Both are made from a similar alloy blend. The only difference is their names.
You might be wondering what sterling silver is? Sterling silver is an alloy made from 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent alloy. An alloy is essentially the mixture of two (or more) elements taken from the periodic table. Regarding sterling silver, the alloys can include zinc, copper or nickel. While the United States, Europe and most of the world enforces a strict standard of sterling silver at 92.5 silver to 7.5 copper or other alloys, there are other standards. For example, some countries, including France, have a standard of 95 per cent. However, 92.5 is the most common. But over all, 925 sterling silver is good.
So, that leaves the question: what is 925 silver? Ultimately, it's the same thing as sterling silver! Sterling silver and 925 silver are both made from the same silver alloy blend, with the only key difference being the name.
If you're considering buying 925 Sterling Silver and are new to the jewellery industry, you will undoubtedly want to know the difference between pure silver and 925 sterling silver. Sterling silver is a popular metal used to make jewellery and other decorative items.
Well, pure silver is not really made up of only silver. It has 99.9% of silver and a small content composed of other metals such as Copper. On the other hand, Sterling Silver consists of 92.5% silver, and the remaining part consists of Copper – mostly Copper. This is the reason why Sterling Silver is popularly referred to as 925 Sterling Silver or just 925 Silver.
Silver needs to be combined with other metals because it is very difficult to make great designs with just pure silver, which is very soft and malleable. A bit of hardness has to be introduced by adding other metals such as Copper. That's why jewellers are capable of making the most intricate and complex designs with 925 Sterling Silver.
Is Sterling Silver Real Silver?
Yes, Sterling Silver IS real silver, in the same sense that 18k gold is real gold—even though it isn't pure gold. Gold used for jewellery also has metal alloys mixed in to add hardness for all the same reasons as silver. Many of the same metal alloys are used in both metal mixtures. zinc, platinum, and germanium.
So, what metals are used to increase the durability of silver? Copper is the most common additive. Other metals like Zinc, Manganese, Platinum, or Germanium are sometimes, but far less commonly, added to the alloy mixture. Nickel used to be a common additive to Sterling Silver, but it isn't very common today because so many people have allergic reactions to Nickel.
Why Would You Need To Learn How To Tell Apart?
925 Sterling Silver jewellery certainly does not come cheap. On the contrary, it requires quite an investment from your side, whether you are buying sterling silver pendants or rings. But it is a worthwhile investment as its value increases with time. However, what is very important is not to be duped into buying fake 925 sterling silver jewellery from "unidentified sources".
This is a serious issue because many jewellers sell fake sterling silver necklaces, rings, earrings, etc. Sterling silver is much cheaper than costlier metals such as gold. Yet, fake imitations of sterling silver jewellery are wildly sold in the market.
For instance, it is common to come across silver plated jewellery that is sold as real sterling silver jewellery. However, these jewellery pieces have only a minimal silver content and are bound to deteriorate sooner than later.
A piece of jewellery is considered to be fine silver if it contains 92.5% (or more) of pure silver, but pure silver is too soft to be used without another metal. So Copper and nickel are commonly incorporated to make up the remaining 7.5%.
On the other hand, Silverplate is different from real silver because only the surface of the jewellery is covered with real silver, and the rest of the item is made up of copper or nickel alloy.
How to Identify Sterling Silver
The quickest way to identify sterling silver is to look for a mark or stamp, called the "hallmark." For example, certified sterling silver will be stamped or marked with the word "sterling" or "925."
You may often come across hallmarks labelled with "STG", "S.S.", or "STER," which are all authentic notations of sterling silver.
Remember how sterling silver and 925 silver are the same things? With that knowledge, you'll recognise that any item of silver jewellery labelled sterling or 925 is, in fact, sterling silver!
Steps To Help You Tell If Your Sterling Silver Jewelry Is Real 92.5
The "Hallmark" Test
Inspect your silver jewellery all around for a mark known as a "hallmark" (you might need a magnifying lens for this). For example, an imprint of the number "925" indicates that the jewellery piece contains 92.5% of pure silver. Other marks may be "Sterling Silver," "Ster", or "Sterling." Markings are normally found on larger parts of the jewellery piece where they can be engraved.
The "Magnet" Test
Hold a regular magnet above or near your jewellery piece. Pure silver is not magnetic, so if your jewellery piece is drawn to the magnet, it is not real 92.5 sterling silver or more. The chances are that the alloy your jewellery piece was made has a different composition percentage.
The "Weight" Test
Another easy way to tell if your jewellery piece is real 92.5 Sterling Silver is by comparing it to an item of a similar weight that you know is made of real silver. If the weight feels the same, your silver jewellery piece is more likely to be genuine.
The "Scientific" Test
Here is where you have to pretend to be one of the MythBusters guys. Gather around some protective goggles and gloves and wear them. Then add a drop of nitric acid to a small silver part of your jewellery. If it turns green, it is not made of genuine silver. Nitric acid is a chemical with a high copper content, which discolours non-silver items.
The "Easy Peasy" Test
I left the easiest for the end. Try rubbing your silver jewellery lightly with a soft, light-coloured cloth. If black marks appear on the cloth, the jewellery piece is likely to be genuine silver. Real silver oxidises when exposed to air; this creates the tarnish that appears on the cloth when it is rubbed.
Sterling Silver in Jewelry
One of the best things about sterling silver is that it can be styled with anything. It’s versatile, elegant, timeless and great for any occasion. From casual dinners to formal occasions, sterling silver adds that classy touch of shine that elevates style without overpowering it. Here are some popular types of sterling silver jewelry:
Pendants: Jewelers and designers use sterling silver as an elegant and reliable metal casing for pendants to hold jewels and stones.
Rings: Many rings are made with sterling silver as it’s hypoallergenic and won’t leave marks or irritate the skin.
Necklaces: Sterling silver is often used for necklace chains and pendants.
Earrings: Often, earrings are made with cheaper metals which cause irritation and can lead to bleeding and infection. Next time you fall in love with a pair of earrings, make sure they’re sterling silver.
Bracelets: Add a touch of shine with the flick of a wrist with a gorgeous sterling silver bracelet.
Things to Know When Buying Sterling Silver Jewelry
We’ve learned that there’s no difference between sterling silver and 925 silver, but the same can’t be said for other items in the jewelry marketplace. Truth is, the term “silver” alone is quite complex. In fact, this word is popularly used as a label, when in fact silver should always be clearly identified with a hallmark representing its standard grade and quality.
Bottom line: Sterling silver, aka 925 silver is hypoallergenic, high quality, stylish and safe.
Which beckons the question, who doesn’t love silver?
Why We Love Sterling Silver
As you’ve thoroughly learned by now, sterling silver is 925 silver. That said, it’s important to know how sterling silver is made and what the sterling silver standard grades are. With this information, you can ensure that you’re buying authentic sterling silver and adding high-quality items to your jewelry collection.
Sterling silver is evergreen; it has stood the test of time, which means it’ll likely always be in style as a jewelry metal we love. It’s darling, durable and diverse, and we can’t get enough of it! Browse our sterling silver jewelry collection to find the perfect new piece to add to your jewelry box.