What Is “Sterling Silver”?
Sterling silver is by far the most popular silver alloy in the world for jewelry. Sterling silver (also called .925 silver) is an alloy consisting of 92.5 percent fine silver and 7.5 percent other metals (usually copper). Jewelry manufacturers use sterling silver because of its strength and durability — fine silver alone is too soft and too easily damaged to be used as jewelry.
In the United States, an alloy must be at least 92.5 percent fine silver to be marketed as “silver”. All silver items in MMA International’s Silver Stars Collection are .925 sterling silver.
How Is Sterling Silver Jewelry Finished?
Different silver jewelry items may be finished in different ways. For some items, the .925 sterling silver design is plated with a thin layer of .999 fine silver. This process is known as flashing, and it gives the item a shiny finish. Some factories will apply a plating of nickel or copper on the jewelry prior to applying the .999 silver plating. Though this flashing method gives the jewelry a brighter, longer shelf life it does require re-plating if sized or machine buffed. Other silver items are rhodium plated, which again results in a bright, shiny finish. Other jewelry items may be gold plated or left unplated depending on the design. Flashing or plating silver jewelry also helps reduce irritation or discoloration for customers with sensitive skin.
How Can I Keep My Sterling Silver Items Looking Great?
Sterling silver is susceptible to tarnish – this is a natural reaction the metal has with chemicals in the air. Thankfully, preventative maintenance can help keep your sterling silver jewelry looking great for years to come. Frequent light polishing with a polishing cloth designed for sterling silver — such as this one — will help minimize tarnish. You can also wash your jewelry periodically with mild dish soap and warm water — be sure to rinse well and dry completely before putting your jewelry away.
You can minimize tarnish of items that are stored in a display case by using desiccated silica gel, granules that absorb the humidity in the air. Covering the jewelry in your cases with Pacific Jeweler’s Cloth (available at most fabric stores) will also help minimize tarnish. When storing silver jewelry items, keeping them in sealed polyethylene bags will help reduce tarnish as well.
Tarnish can be easily removed when first noticed. However, if left untreated, the color of the tarnish will darken and will become more difficult to remove, requiring professional cleaning.
It is also important to avoid exposing sterling silver jewelry to harsh chemicals like chlorine, cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume, and to avoid extended exposure to direct sunlight.