There are many types of silver available on the market today. It is important to be familiar with the competing metals in the marketplace in order to educate your customers about silver quality standards and alternatives in the industry. Here you will find definitions and comparisons of the many silver metals used to make jewelry around the world.

1. Fine .999 Silver
Fine silver is the closest metal to the pure element silver. It is described as .999 which indicates 99.9% purity. The 0.1% remainder consists of trace elements of insignificant quantity. Fine silver has a more vitreous luster than the bright polish of sterling. It appears more gray and slightly dull. Fine silver is quite soft and will scratch, dent and change shape fairly easily. For that reason it is less common in jewelry because items will not wear well over time.

2. 925 Sterling Silver
Sterling is the jewelry quality standard in the United States and most world markets. It is an alloy of 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% is usually copper though it is sometimes other metals such as nickel. The other metals are added to the alloy to increase hardness so the metal will be more durable and to create the color and luster that is so prized by consumers. Sterling silver is the silver color we are most familiar with. It is very bright and shiny but it will tarnish. Tarnish can be delayed but it cannot be prevented and it is easy to clean with readily available polishing products. Sterling silver is harder than fine silver but it is still fairly soft compared to many metals.

3. Coin Silver
Coin silver was once a more common alloy in the United States. It is now fairly rare and the name causes quite a bit of confusion. The technical “coin silver” alloy is .900 silver, or 90% silver and 10% copper. It was not used to make coins; rather, it was so named because it was made from refined scrap coins at one point in time. Monetary coins in our country, and most others, no longer contain silver and are instead made from more inexpensive, durable base metals.

4. Silver
Jewelry sold as just “silver” is a bit of a mystery. The term is thrown around in the market but jewelry items should be clearly identified as a specific standard quality. If not, it is unlikely that the silver alloy is very high quality. Jewelry artists and manufacturers are legally required to either stamp pieces when space permits or tag finished products with quality designations.

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