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Labeling standards for silver jewelry and rings have been put in place to let consumers know when higher quality metals are used. You may have seen numbers stamped in an inconspicuous place on some pieces of jewelry. The number indicates the amount of pure silver used in silver jewelry.
Sterling silver is a high grade quality of the metal. In order to qualify to be labeled as sterling, the piece must have 925 parts per thousand of pure silver (in other words, 92.5%). The remaining 75 parts (7.5 %) are usually comprised of copper, zinc, or nickel but can contain other metals. If you see the numbers “925” stamped somewhere on your silver jewelry, it indicates that it is sterling quality.
Many unique handcrafted jewelry pieces are made with sterling quality silver.
Sometimes jewelery can be ‘silver plated’, which differs greatly from solid pieces. The piece has only been coated with silver over top of a different metal. The coating can wear off exposing the other metals to your skin.
Pieces can sometimes be called “silver” jewelry because of the color. It may not have any in it at all. For example, nickel silver is an alloy consisting of copper, nickel, zinc, and sometimes tin. If you suffer from sensitivities to certain metals it would be wise to stay away from silver jewelry of unknown composition.
A very pure form (99% or higher) does exist however it is generally too soft for practical use in making jewelry.
Other high quality grades exist as well, including Britannia (at least 95% silver) although it is rare to see this grade in silver jewelry.
Most stores will let consumer know when the silver jewelry they sell is sterling. To be sure, always check for the stamp on any ring, necklace or bracelet that will let you know its purity.
A big difference between fine and costume jewelry is the quality of the silver. Most costume jewelry will have plated jewelry as opposed to solid silver.
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