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The Types and Care of Silver Used In Jewelry

Oct 13, 2007
Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged. It is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. This article provides a survey of the most common types of silver that are used in jewelry today and how to care of them.

The most popular is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling. Centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best alloy. It improves the metal's hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color.

The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal's value. The price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson, and the intricacy of the design.

Most high quality silver items are stamped with a "fineness" or "quality" mark. This mark designates the precious metal content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker's mark or registered trademark.

Because pure silver is so soft, it should only be used when malleability is required, such as in handcrafted jewelry featuring weaving and other intricate designs. Sterling silver is most often used for jewelry and household accessories because of its combination of beauty and durability.

Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include: sterling, sterling silver and sterling silver.92.

With proper care, fine quality silver will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage store silver jewelry either in a cloth pouch or in a separate compartment in your jewelry box.

Avoid exposing silver to household chemicals when cleaning with bleach or ammonia, or when swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage silver.

Care should also be taken to prevent silver tarnish build-up. This is a dulling that naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the air. To clean silver, use polishes formulated specifically to remove tarnish. These can be found in fine silver polishes, solutions. In addition, you can use appropriate cloths to remove tarnish, which can be found at most hardware stores or specialty craft stores.

Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible. Wearing silver jewelry often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up.

Regular cleaning of all your silver items will prevent tarnish and keep your silver bright and sparkling.

To ensure the quality, when buying silver jewelry look for the fineness mark and the maker's mark on the underside of the silver item you are considering. Once you have purchased your silver jewelry, then heed the tips for care and you will enjoy a lifetime of wearability.
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