What is Sterling Silver, 925 Silver, Native American Silver and Mexican Silver?
The word Sterling silver often causes confusion in the world of jewelry shopping. Jewelers are sometimes to blame. A variety of terms have been tagged to sterling silver. But what is it really and why is it so special?
What Is Sterling Silver?
A piece of jewelry is defined as “sterling silver” when its metal content is at least 92.5% pure silver metal. Most people will recognize this as a hallmarked stamp that reads “.925” on their piece.
Sterling silver is a term given to pieces of jewelry with metal content of at least 92.5% pure silver. At times, it can be seen stamped on jewelry pieces as ‘.925’. This stamp isn’t always present, so if you bought sterling silver jewelry without the numerical hallmark, you don’t have to worry about its pure silver content.
Just 92.5%, what about the other 7.5%?
While 92.5% may sound unsatisfactory to inexperienced customers with bloated expectations, the truth is that, silver content of that percentage is quite high.
The remaining 7.5% represents metal content usually consisting of a blend of mixed metals. The main metals included would be nickel and copper. Because pure silver is a soft metal, and isn’t very strong, the 7.5% of blended metals strengthen the structure of the entire jewelry piece.
There are pieces with numerical stamps of ‘950’ and ‘980’. These are still considered to be sterling silver but of a higher quality. It simply means that these jewelry pieces have 95% and 98% pure silver metal content respectively. Whatever percentage that are not pure silver (5% and 3% respectively) will be a blend of mixed metals added for strengthening the jewelry structure.
Covered Sterling Silver and Plated Silver – The Difference
Many times, jewelry pieces crafted from pure silver (sterling silver) have a protective or chemical cover put on them to prevent tarnishing. Other times, sterling silver is covered with gold to give the jewelry piece a distinct look. These variations in the appearance of pure silver jewelry pieces are still considered sterling silver.
However, silver plated jewelry pieces are never considered sterling silver. Why, because the pure silver content is way lower than the 92.5% that defines sterling silver.
What Is Mexican Silver?
Sterling silver will always remain sterling silver regardless of where it is produced. The name ‘Mexican silver’ that is attributed to some jewelry pieces explains the origin of the piece and not the source of the metal.
So yes, Mexican silver is still sterling silver. It’s just made in Mexico.
What is Native American Silver?
Native American Silver is still very much patronized today. Each piece of jewelry exhibits a unique blend of skill and craft bearing timeless designs that are uniquely recognisable.
The turning point of Native American Silver was back in the 19th century when silver was introduced by the Navajo tribe into making of its jewelry. Much Native American jewelry is now made with sterling silver. The 92.5% pure silver content exists in many varieties of Native American pendants, necklaces, bracelets and rings.