What Is the Difference Between Sterling Silver and Silver-Plated Jewelry?

Silver is a beautiful, luxurious, and very rare precious metal. To this day, silver jewelry remains a mark of luxury and class. High-quality silver jewelry can even serve as a sound investment.

We recommend exercising caution when buying silver jewelry, though. Make sure to invest in sterling silver rather than silver-plated jewelry.

What Is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper and other metals. Alloys are a mix of two or more metals. Pure or 99.9% silver is too soft to craft jewelry and other products. Mixing other metals with pure silver adds to its durability and strength.

Most high-quality and expensive silver jewelry sold today is made from 925 or sterling silver. Due to the added metals, though, sterling silver may still tarnish.

Sterling silver can be a great investment. Despite its expensive price, it retains a high resale value even over an extended period.

What Is Silver-Plated Jewelry?

Silver-plating creates more affordable jewelry and other products.

The term silver plating or “silver electroplating” refers to a method of coating a base metal with silver. These base metals often aren’t precious metals but rather copper, nickel, or brass.

Only a minimal amount of silver is used when silver plating jewelry. Due to this, silver-plated jewelry also holds little to no intrinsic silver or resale value.

Silver plating can result in more durable products, in terms of strength. However, the thin silver plating is prone to degrading, tarnishing, and flaking as the base metal oxidizes.

Sterling Silver vs. Silver-Plated Jewelry

One way to tell the difference between sterling silver and silver-plated jewelry is its weight. High-quality sterling silver is lighter than the non-precious metals hidden by the silver plating. Additionally, the silver-plated jewelry has a lighter silver color than sterling silver.

Lastly, be sure to look for a hallmark certifying the purity of the metal, as well. Sterling silver hallmarks can be as simple as a stamped 925 or engraved SS on the clasp.

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