Sterling silver is a popular and valuable alloy used in making various types of jewelry, flatware, and other decorative items. It is an alloy composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. The reason for this specific composition is to improve the durability and strength of the silver, as pure silver is relatively soft and malleable, making it less suitable for practical everyday use.
The term "sterling" has historical origins and dates back to the 12th century in England. It was initially used to refer to the quality of coins made from this alloy. The word "sterling" comes from "sterre," which means "star," signifying the star-like quality or sheen of the silver coins.
To be considered genuine sterling silver, an item must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% is often copper, but other metals can be used too, such as zinc or nickel. This combination of metals gives sterling silver its unique characteristics, such as its lustrous appearance and ability to withstand daily wear.
Sterling silver items are usually marked with a "925" stamp, indicating their silver content. This hallmark serves as a guarantee of the item's quality and authenticity. Sterling silver is widely used in jewelry-making and silverware production due to its beauty, durability, and relatively affordable cost compared to items made from pure silver.