Sterling Silver vs. Pure Silver: Which Is Best?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms’ sterling’ or ‘pure’ to describe silver, but you’re still quite clueless about them. And now you’re planning to buy your first silver, and you know you must learn more about this precious metal if you are to make the best purchase. This article holds the answers. Read on, and you will learn all the relevant things you need to know about sterling silver and pure silver.

Sterling Silver vs. Pure Silver

Overview of Pure Silver

Silver is among the precious metals humans have been using for the past thousands of years and was popular from ancient Greek to ancient China. Its popularity is still evident across the world today, not only in jewelry making but also in electronics.

Most of the silver used in making jewelry is byproducts of refining other metals such as zinc, lead, gold, and copper.

Silver, in its purest form, contains 99.9% silver and 0.1% trace elements. It’s characterized by a lustrous white surface and is malleable and ductile. This extreme softness poses a problem when it comes to making commercial jewelry such as personalized necklaces or bracelets

Overview of Sterling Silver

To make pure silver more durable and consequently easier to work into pieces of jewelry and utensils, experts create an alloy of silver and harder metals. Pure silver consists 92.5% of this metal compound, while zinc, copper, or nickel make up the remaining 7.5%.

This alloy is sterling silver. It retains the beautiful luster of pure silver, while other metals’ added strength makes it desirable in many artistry works.

Difference Between Silver and Sterling Silver

Properties Sterling Silver Pure Silver
Price (Value) More affordable than pure silver but is less valuable because of the added metals Expensive and higher in value due to its purity
Stamp (Hallmarks) Stamps indicating the amount of silver varies from ‘925’,’ 92.5′, or ‘.925’. Sometimes the hallmark ‘stainless steel is used as well. To indicate 99.9% purity, pure silver is tamped with the hallmark 999 of 99.9% pure silver.
Tarnish Easily tarnished than pure silver due to the qualities of the alloyed metals Air pollution and humidity can quickly tarnish pure silver and give it a dirty look
Usability This durable alloy is not only used in long-lasting jewelry. It can also be used in different crafts such as cutlery, flatware, surgical equipment, etc. Due to its extreme softness, pure silver jewelry is prone to be bent and damaged, making it inadvisable for daily use. Pure silver is commonly used in making earrings and necklaces
Softness More brutal and easier to shape, making it the preferred material for jewelry Too soft to be of use in commercial jewelry making

Which is Better, Silver or Sterling Silver?

There is not a definitive answer to this. What is better for you will depend on your answers to the following questions:

  • Are you willing to pay higher for a piece of purer silver?
  • Are you going to wear it only on certain occasions or daily?
  • If you have a particular design in mind, is it feasible with pure silver or sterling silver?

Why Use Sterling Silver Instead of Pure Silver?

When it comes to practicality, sterling silver is the best choice.

Since Sterling silver contains only 92.5% silver, it is less expensive than pure silver. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not as beautiful. Sterling Silver retains the brilliant luster of pure silver, which means you can get the same aesthetics at a more affordable price.

If you’re planning to buy a piece of fine jewelry to be used daily, such as a wedding ring, sterling silver is the best choice. The strong metals present in the alloy make any piece durable and sure to last for a long time. That is if you give it the maintenance it needs.

There are also more options to choose from with sterling silver jewelry. This is because it’s more robust and easier to shape, making more designs available.

What Is the Highest Quality Silver?

The purity and quality of silver are denoted by fineness, measured in a portion of 1000. This means the higher the hallmark number, the purer the silver. Below you can find the list of silver alloys arranged from the lowest fineness to the purest.

  • German silver – 800 or 835 is its mark of millesimal fineness, meaning 80 to 83.5 percent pure silver.
  • Scandinavian silver – 830 millesimal fineness, meaning 83% pure silver.
  • Coin silver – 900 millesimal fineness meaning 90% pure silver.
  • Sterling silver – 925 millesimal fineness meaning 92.5% pure silver
  • French 1st standard – 950 fineness meaning 95% silver content
  • Britannia silver – 958 fineness meaning 95.8% silver content
  • Pure silver – 999 fineness, the purest and highest quality silver there is. 99.9% pure silver with only a hint of impurities.
  • Sterling Silver & Silver Jewelry Industry

    Twenty percent of the global demand for silver comes from the silver jewelry industry. Before the pandemic hit, the demand is expected to rise even higher. Despite the pandemic’s negative impact, particularly in 2020, a report said that the silver industry is expected to bounce back in 2021. The silver jewelry industry is even expected to achieve a recovery rate of 13 percent this year, even if there’s a significant increase in silver prices. The report was optimistic that the economic recovery will be able to counteract the higher prices of silver.