Sterling Silver vs. Pure Silver: What is the Difference?

Sterling Silver vs. Pure Silver: What is the Difference?

A short journey to a majority of the jewelry shops in shopping malls or online reveals that the most bought precious metal fine jewelry is pieces made from sterling silver. Most folks outside the jewelry industry assume that pure silver is the same as sterling silver, but that is not the case.

Most jewelry lovers love to wear sterling silver because of the way it shines. The jewelry market has diamond and gemstone jewelry set in sterling silver, but you are not likely to find large carat weights for diamond jewelry.

The three most precious metals are gold, platinum, and silver, silver being the most affordable.

But is there a difference between sterling silver and silver? There is also 925 silver? Keep calm, shortly, you will get the similarity, comparison, and any other thing you must know.

From this guide, we shall learn about:

  • The difference between sterling silver and pure silver
  • Which is the better quality of jewelry: pure or sterling silver jewelry?
  • Which is more expensive: sterling silver or pure silver?
  • The best place to buy silver jewelry
  • Cleaning silver jewelry
  • And a lot more!

Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver: The Differences

In most cases, the words sterling silver and silver are used interchangeably, although the two terms are totally different.

In this guide, we shall refer to silver as pure silver and sterling silver as sterling silver.

Pure silver is also known as fine silver.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is more common in the jewelry industry compared to pure silver because it is an alloy. Because of the metal combination, sterling silver is likely to be strong and remain strong for a long time.

Sterling silver has 92.5% silver. The rest of the 7.5% is a combination of several metals known as a sterling silver alloy.

The metal combination may be composed of zinc, nickel, or copper together with genuine silver. All jewelry in the market that is made of sterling silver bears a “925 sterling silver” stamp.

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Pure Silver

If you have shopped for jewelry for some time, you probably know how hard it is to get pure silver jewelry especially in megastores like Jared or Kay. You may be mistaken to think that pure silver is more precious because it is 100% silver, but that makes it soft hence not the best for jewelry construction.

Pure silver is commonly used in antique items like silver plates, silverware, and flatware. A long time ago, folks liked to take hot beverages in crockery made of real silver.

Apart from silver items, pure silver is also found in silver and bullion coins. A silver coin contains 90% silver and 10% copper.

For jewelry, you will probably find pure silver in nautical or bohemian costume jewelry. Probably you know more about pure silver being associated with pirates and the sea.

Pure silver is normally stamped as “999.”

Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver: Quality

Fine silver is a precious metal, it is pretty and top-quality but not good enough for high-quality jewelry. Pure silver’s worth increases with an increase in purity, but the same lowers its durability.

A ring made of pure silver will have dents within a short period because it is soft and bendy and can break easily. The frequency with which you knock your hands on surfaces the whole day long puts the ring at risk.

With regards to jewelry items, sterling silver pieces are top in quality compared to pure silver pieces.

Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver: Cost

Sterling silver is 92.5% while pure silver is 99.9% silver, hence pure silver is more expensive. Sterling silver is not what many people would invest in because of its level of purity.

Pure silver items a valued a little differently; not for the purity but for how antique it is, not the silver content.

While prices of other precious metals like silver and gold change frequently, the pure silver price is approximately $17 per ounce. Pure silver jewelry is not worth so much but a tea set made of pure silver is worth a lot.

Sterling Silver vs Pure Silver: The Difference

Check out the stamp on the silver to see whether it is pure or sterling. Sterling silver should bear a 925 stamp and 999 stamp for pure silver.

If you are shopping in cheap jewelry shops like Walmart, Kohl’s, or Amazon, you will find jewelry that is sterling silver plated.

Silver plating refers to jewelry that has been coated with a thin sheet of silver over another metal such as brass, stainless steel, or copper. If you are lucky you may get white gold plated over the sterling silver metal.

Silver-plated jewelry will not be stamped 999 or 925 since it’s not solid. If the primary metal used in the jewelry cannot be sized such as stainless steel, it will not be sized even if it has silver plating.

If you find silver jewelry that bears no stamp, it is either none or one, it could be coated over a cheap metal.

The easiest and quickest way to know if it is sterling silver or pure silver is using a magnet. Sterling silver is magnetic but pure silver is not. But, it could also be stainless steel.

If that is the case, you can tell the difference because stainless steel isn’t as bright as sterling silver. Both metals are polished although sterling silver is more precious and attracts more light.

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Another way to find out is to tap the sterling silver on your fingernail as well as stainless steel metal. Sterling silver will produce a higher pitch.

Best Place to Buy Silver Jewelry

You can find sterling silver jewelry in almost all jewelry selling shops in the U.S, starting from Signet to Walmart.

Pure silver is rare but you can get it in earthy stores that specialize in selling healing crystals and sage, or age items. These stores like the fact that natural elements are pure, so it is easier to find pure silver in them.

If you want a store that stocks both sterling and pure silver, head over to Amazon. You will get a variety of jewelry styles both in pure silver and sterling silver.

You, however, must have the eye for details when searching for jewelry since most products are keyworded using the title. Sometimes what the title says may not exactly be what the product is. You must go through the description section below the title and read down the page. You will find many items that are silver-plated and not solid silver.

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

Some people say that silver jewelry is impermeable while others think it is not. Well, it is both.

Sterling silver is water-resistant and not waterproof. It can only withstand water for a short time, so make sure you dry it as soon as possible. Do not submerge it in water.

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Pure silver is 100% waterproof, however, you should not wear it in a swimming pool since the chlorine in water affects the metal appearance.

Pure silver can be cleaned by soaking the metal in a mixture of water and mild soap for about 20 minutes. You cannot do this to sterling silver.

Sterling silver should be cleaned by rinsing it under running water with soap and scrubbing using a small brush with soft bristles. Once clean, you should pat dry.


Does silver tarnish?

All kinds of silver are prone to tarnish, pure silver has a higher tarnish resistance from moisture but the sulfur in the air makes it tarnish faster, sterling silver tarnishes faster because of the metal alloy in it.

If by bad luck your silver starts to look dull, it is easy to restore its shine. You will need a silver polishing cloth that has a jeweler’s rouge.

The polishing cloth has a polishing agent on one side and a buffer on the other. The compound gets rid of the tarnish while the buffer gives a final polish.

This cloth is enough to remove all the tarnish on your silver jewelry. The polishing towels can be found online or locally for $10 or less.

Can silver jewelry be worn everyday?

You can wear sterling silver jewelry every day, only that you should not wear it in water. When put in water, it tarnishes affecting its appearance, although it remains durable.

Pure silver is soft and should not be put on every day, sterling silver can stay for as long as you want, but can still be damaged because it has more silver content.

Is pure silver hypoallergenic?

In some cases, pure silver has very tiny traces of nickel. The nickel is too tiny to cause any reactions to nickel allergy. Copper is the widely used metal alloy in silver jewelry, any nickel in silver will most likely be a tiny percent.

Pure silver is good to wear if you are allergic to nickel but not a copper allergy. They are not common though.

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