Have you ever bought a ring that looked and felt authentic? But — when you took it off at the end of the day, your finger had a residual green smudge on it?
Or have you ever bought a shiny, layered necklace, only for it to be a dull orange in a couple weeks’ time?
Not the looks you were going for, right?
The problem with buying eye-catching jewelry off the shelves of department stores is that many of those pieces are not real. They’re costume jewelry. It may come with a cheaper price tag, but it comes with cheaper quality, too.
In the end, it’s smarter (and classier!) to invest in pieces that will last. Pieces that can get shined, rebuffed, and kept beautiful and lively. Which is why we think you should consider adding more sterling silver to your collection!
Keep reading to see why we love it!
Silver vs. Sterling Silver: What’s the Difference?
Silver is a notoriously gentle metal. In its purest form, it is soft and malleable.
Because of this, it is often alloyed with another kind of metal to improve its durability and strength. The most common metal used in this process is copper. If you’ve ever purchased a sterling silver ring, it’s a safe bet that it got alloyed with copper.
While in a molten state, silver gets blended with another metal to create a new product. The ratio of silver to the other metal is what determines the resulting purity.
The “silver standard” across the United States is .925 silver. How is this number reached?
.925 means that the finished product is 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% is copper, or whatever metal got used. This number gets identified in the parts per thousandth.
92.5 is the perfect percentage for achieving the desired look and feel. The jewelry keeps its sleek silver tone, but won’t be at risk of bending or breaking. The 7.5% is just enough to keep the silver’s shelf-life strong.
How to Identify Sterling Silver
So you want to avoid the dreaded green fingers that come from faux silver jewelry. You’re ready to add the real stuff to your collection. How are you supposed to identify the authentic from the fake?
Let’s learn more about that now!
Luckily for buyers, identifying sterling silver is pretty easy! Most pieces get stamped in some telling way. This is sometimes referred to as a “purity mark.”
Each mark might be in a different place. For rings, check the inside of the ring’s curve. For pieces like necklaces, check the backs of pendants.
What purity marks should you be on the lookout for?
These are the most common markings, but vintage pieces sometimes have different identifiers. You can consult with the maker or seller about anything you have questions about.
And of course, not all real sterling silver pieces have these markings.
You may buy jewelry from a private seller at a farmer’s market or indie fest. They may not have stamped their work with a purity mark. In this situation, consult with the maker about authenticity.
There are also a number of tests that can get performed on sterling silver to determine its realness. Let’s cover that next.
Put It to the Test
There are many tests one can do to determine the authenticity of a piece of silver without a marking.
- Does ice melt fast while on the piece? It should, as silver is a heat conductor
- Does it make a prominent ringing sound? As opposed to a dull thud
- Does it tarnish when touched with bleach? Real silver will (although, proceed with caution when using bleach)
- Is it not magnetic? Real silver is not magnetic and should not stick to a magnet
- In an acid test, real silver will turn brown or red
- In a nitric acid test, real silver will turn creamy white
Of course, be sure to consult with the seller or maker before performing any of these tests! Tests like the acid and nitric acid ones can (potentially) cause damage to the piece if used in excess. Make sure you are careful, gentle, and use minimal amounts of any harsh liquid.
Another way to determine authenticity is by asking a certified jeweler. They should have all the tools necessary to give the stamp of approval — or not!
How to Keep Your Jewelry Sparkling
One of the great things about sterling silver — besides being the least expensive precious metal — is that you can perform maintenance on it. This will keep it shiny and looking like new!
When costume jewelry gets tarnished, it’s done. But when sterling silver gets tarnished (and it will), don’t fret. There are easy ways to clean your jewelry:
- Good ol’-fashioned soap, warm water, and a toothbrush
- Leave to soak in a water and soap mixture
- Use a jewelry-cleaning cloth to polish
- Use a liquid silver cleaner
- Send to a jeweler for a professional cleaning
And you can also take measures to prevent extensive wear and tear on your pieces.
If you’re working with your hands a lot (say, tending bar or DIYing around the house), remove your silver rings.
Keep your jewelry stored in a cool, dry place. Metals such as copper react to moisture and will cause your jewelry to tarnish quicker. It’s a good idea to remove silver jewelry before swimming, showering, or washing your hands.
Also, when it comes to storage, keep jewelry separated, not stacked. This will help pieces avoid scratching against one another. It will also keep necklaces from tangling or breaking as easily.
A Silver Lining
When it comes down to it, there’s nothing like the real thing. And while sterling silver may be more expensive than its faux counterparts, it’s worth it. Think about all the replacement costs when you have to buy yet another fake necklace!
And it’s still the least expensive precious metal out there. So if you’re into authenticity but not ready to splurge on gold, silver’s your best bet. It’s a classic, timeless addition to any woman’s jewelry box.
While we’re on the subject of fashion, let’s keep the information coming! Here are the best winter fashion tips we’ve got!