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What is Sterling Silver?

Dec 25, 2007
Among American and international jewelry makers and buyers, sterling silver has long been one of the most popular and widely used materials for jewelry. With its unique silvery tone and sheen, plus its smoothness and its relatively light weight, the material is perfect for rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, charms, pendants, and essentially every other type of jewelry. In many cases, it can be a slightly less expensive, equally beautiful alternative to pricey gold, although it is also very valuable in its own right. But what exactly is sterling silver, and how did it become so popular?

Silver, which is mined in several regions throughout the world, has been regarded as a precious metal since the beginnings of human history, and has also been used in coinage, in silverware, candlesticks, and other household items, in scientific experiments, and as a conductor of electricity. Little is known about the origins of sterling silver's name. There are many theories, but the most popular one holds that the name is derived from "Easterling Silver," a term that was used described the currency of the Easterling region of Germany during the Middle Ages. Indeed, surviving specimens of this currency have the same purity as modern sterling silver.

Like gold, the purest silver is practically useless as a jewelry material. Above a certain level of purity, silver is too soft to be incorporated into usable objects. For this reason, it is often alloyed with other, harder metals, such as copper, zinc, or platinum. This is where it gets its classification; specifically, sterling silver is defined as a material made up of 92.5% silver, and 7.5% other metals. This purity level creates a very usable material that also retains the precious and beautiful qualities of purest silver.

This also explains the popularity of sterling silver. Not only is it an obviously high quality and precious material, but it also has a high degree of versatility that is unmatched by many lesser materials. This versatility is the reason for it's ubiquity in both jewelry and household items. Although many of the traditional uses of sterling silver have been usurped by materials such as stainless steel, this has only elevated it's value.

As a side note, a little known fact about sterling silver is that it has very unique, warm, and deep qualities of sound resonance. Because of this, it has been used in components of musical instruments such as saxophones and flutes, and some instrument manufacturers even offer instruments made entirely of sterling silver.

Musical instruments and household items aside, sterling silver is best known as a material for jewelry. Indeed, the history of silver's use in jewelry goes back thousands of years, and today it has by no means diminished, with sterling silver and 14k gold still being the two preeminent materials in modern jewelry.

Because of its versatility, sterling silver's jewelry uses are as wide and varied as jewelry itself. In rings, earrings, charms, pendants, and necklaces, sterling silver is often set with precious gemstones, diamonds, or pearls. In other cases, it can be molded into any shape, from animals, to hearts, to flowers, or religious symbols. When used in these charms and pendants, it lends itself to very small and fine detail, and it also makes a great canvas for enamel coloring. As an alternative to gold, sterling silver items are often both more affordable and equally beautiful.

Thus, sterling silver jewelry is a perennial favorite for gifts relating to all occasions. It is great for mothers, fathers, children, or spouses, and it also works as a perfect material for thank you gifts. Readers interested in learning more about the varied applications of silver in jewelry can easily surf over to any online jewelry store, most of which offer pages and pages of photographs and descriptions of sterling silver jewelry.
About the Author
Lulu Bells Treasures has been offering high quality 14k gold, sterling silver, diamond and gemstone jewelry online since 2003. Visit them today at http://www.lulubells.com to view their large selection of 14k gold jewelry and gifts. Use coupon code AM0807 for $10 off orders over $150.

Lulu Bells Treasures is a registered trademark owned by Lulu Bells Treasures, Inc.
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