What Is Real Silver Called?
Silver has always held a special place in human history and culture. Its shimmering beauty, malleability, and rarity have made it a sought-after material for everything from jewelry to coins. However, not all silver is created equal, and not everything that glitters is made of this precious metal. So, what is real silver called? The answer lies in the term "sterling silver," a phrase that signifies purity and authenticity in the world of silver. In this blog, we'll delve into the intriguing world of sterling silver, exploring its history, characteristics, and how to identify it.
1) The Historical Significance Of Silver
Silver has captivated humanity for millennia. Its historical significance is woven into the fabric of human civilization, and its allure has transcended time and cultures. Ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, used silver not only as currency but also to craft exquisite jewelry and utensils.
One of the most famous historical uses of silver is the development of the silver standard in the 19th century. This system, which linked currency values to a specific amount of silver, played a crucial role in global economics for many years. The phrase "going off the silver standard" was significant during economic discussions, as it signified a major shift in monetary policy.
2) Types Of Silver
Before we explore what real silver is called, it's important to understand the various types of silver you might encounter:
Pure Silver (99.9% silver): Also known as "fine silver," this is the highest quality silver available. It's rarely used in jewelry or everyday items due to its softness, which makes it prone to bending and scratching. Pure silver is often reserved for making bullion coins and bars.
Sterling Silver (92.5% silver): Sterling silver is the most common type of silver used in jewelry and household items. The remaining 7.5% is typically composed of copper, which adds strength and durability to the silver. Sterling silver is known for its lustrous appearance and is often marked with a "925" or "Sterling" stamp.
Coin Silver (90% silver): Historically, coins were made from silver to create currency. Coin silver typically contains 90% silver and 10% copper. This composition allowed for coins that were both durable and resistant to wear. While not as common today, you may still encounter antique coins and items made from coin silver.
Silver Plated: Silver-plated items are made by coating a base metal (usually copper or brass) with a thin layer of silver. While they may have the appearance of real silver, the silver layer is quite thin and can wear away over time.
Silver Alloys: In addition to sterling silver and coin silver, there are various silver alloys used in different applications. For example, German silver, also known as nickel silver, contains copper, zinc, and nickel but no actual silver.
3) The Properties Of Real Silver
Real silver, known scientifically as elemental silver, is a metallic element with the symbol "Ag" on the periodic table. It possesses several remarkable properties that make it stand out among other metals:
Luster: Silver is renowned for its striking metallic luster, which gives it a captivating and reflective appearance.
Conductivity: It is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, making it invaluable in various industries, including electronics.
Malleability and Ductility: Silver is exceptionally malleable and ductile, meaning it can be easily molded into various shapes and drawn into wires, enhancing its versatility.
Corrosion Resistance: Silver is relatively resistant to corrosion and tarnishing, which helps it maintain its luster over time.
Antimicrobial Properties: Silver ions have antimicrobial properties, which have led to their use in medical applications and even in silverware to prevent the growth of bacteria.
4) Real Silver Vs Sterling Silver
The term "real silver" typically refers to the purest form of silver available, which is known as "fine silver" or "pure silver." Fine silver is 99.9% pure, containing only trace amounts of impurities. This level of purity makes it the most desirable form of silver for collectors and investors. In its purest state, silver is too soft for most practical uses, so it is often alloyed with other metals for added strength and durability.
One of the most common alloys of silver is sterling silver. Sterling silver is made by combining 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% of other metals, usually copper. This alloy enhances silver's strength while retaining its desirable properties. Sterling silver is known for its bright luster and is commonly used in jewelry, flatware, and decorative items. It is also stamped with a "925" mark to indicate its purity.
So, while real silver can refer to pure silver, it's crucial to recognize that the term can also encompass sterling silver and other silver alloys used for various purposes.
5) Caring For Your Sterling Silver
To keep your sterling silver items looking their best, proper care is essential. Here are some tips for maintaining the beauty and longevity of your silver:
Store Properly: When you're not wearing your sterling silver jewelry or using your silverware, store them in a cool, dry place, ideally in a cloth pouch or tarnish-resistant jewelry box.
Clean Gently: To remove the tarnish, use a silver polishing cloth or a mild silver cleaner. It's best to avoid harsh materials, as they could leave unsightly scratches on the surface.
Wear It: Interestingly, wearing your sterling silver jewelry can help prevent tarnish. The natural oils on your skin can help maintain the silver's luster.
Avoid Chemicals: Remove your sterling silver jewelry before swimming, using household cleaners, or coming into contact with harsh chemicals, as these can damage the metal.
So, what is real silver called? The answer depends on its purity and intended use. Sterling silver, fine silver, coin silver, and other silver alloys all have their distinct characteristics and purposes. Understanding these distinctions can help you make informed decisions when buying or selling silver items.
Silver's allure extends far beyond its monetary value. It has a rich history, economic significance, and a unique place in the world of art and culture. Whether you're an investor, a collector, or someone who simply appreciates its beauty, real silver continues to shine brightly in our lives, reminding us of its enduring legacy.