April 18, 2020
Sterling silver, also known as 925 sterling silver, is a metal alloy used in jewelry and decorative household objects. Traditionally, it is 92.5% silver (Ag), and 7.5% copper (Cu). Occasionally, other metals account for 7.5%, but the 925 hallmark will always indicate 92.5% silver purity.
Most Moon Magic jewelry lovers are familiar with the term sterling silver and have probably seen the 925 hallmark stamped on the inside of a ring or on a necklace clasp. Just like ster, sterling, and a lion in historic British silver marks, the number 925 on jewelry stands for the amount of silver it contains.
On genuine sterling silver jewelry, you can find the hallmark 925 or some variation of the word sterling stamped in a discreet place like the back of a pendant or inside a band. If it’s particularly small, a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass may be helpful in spotting the sterling silver 925 stamp and other jewelry hallmarks.
The stamp 925 is used to identify genuine sterling silver jewelry, which contains 92.5% silver.
Sterling silver is an alloy, or combination of metal types. Unlike pure silver, which contains 99.9% elemental silver (Ag), sterling silver (925) contains one or more additional metals that add strength to the otherwise delicate material. Pure silver is naturally very soft, and would easily bend or break if used for jewelry without being blended with a stronger metal.
Functional silver jewelry is often made with 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% of metal in 925 sterling silver is most commonly copper, however, some silversmiths opt to add durability with alloys of zinc or nickel instead. Sterling silver fortified with copper is preferred by many jewelry collectors, especially those with sensitive skin.
The composition of your sterling silver jewelry and environmental factors like humidity and skin oils can impact whether or not your fingers will turn green when you wear it. Check out our jewelry care guide to learn more about sterling silver and other metals used in our jewelry.
Skin oils, moisture, and metal composition are all factors that can lead to tarnish in sterling silver jewelry.
Fakes & Other Types of Silver Colored Metals
Due to the fact that silver is both a color and an element, there can be some confusion surrounding the different types of silver. The word silver is often attached to alloys that contain less than 92.5% silver, and a few that contain no silver at all.
While sterling silver 925 is the standard in the United States and several other countries, the term sterling may be used on pieces of lower silver purity in other markets. If you see a piece marked 800 or 900, you’ll know it contains less silver than American sterling silver. These lower purity metals might go by the names European silver or coin silver. The number 800 stands for 80% silver, 900 for 90%, and so on.
Terms like “nickel silver” and “alpaca” are used to describe silver-colored metals that contain no elemental silver (Ag).
To complicate the matter even more, several silver-colored metals used in jewelry contain no silver at all. Terms like nickel silver, German silver, alpaca, and paktong indicate alloys that might look like silver to the untrained eye but are comprised of metals like nickel, copper, and zinc. Alpaca and nickel-based “silvers” are often used in barrettes, pillboxes, and costume jewelry.
As long as these items are clearly labeled and priced accordingly, they can be suitable alternatives to 925 sterling silver. Working with a trustworthy jewelry company and doing your research is important if you’re shopping for genuine sterling silver, or have an allergy to metals that contain nickel.
Discover our collections of nickel-free jewelry in 925 sterling silver, stainless steel, and rose, white, and yellow golds.