925 sterling silver is a mix of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent other metals, known as alloys. 925 sterling silver is the standard for high quality silver and is commonly used in the jewellery industry.
What does the 925 in sterling silver stand for?
925 stands for 92.5 percent pure silver, or 925 parts per thousand of pure silver. 925 is the stamp of certified sterling silver, meaning that it has a fineness of 925 and is usually marked with ‘925’, ‘Sterling’ or with the abbreviation ‘Ster’ for authentication purposes.
Why isn’t the silver in silver jewellery 100% silver instead of 92.5%?
Fine silver (99 percent pure silver) is extremely soft and malleable, making it difficult to mould into solid, functional objects and more prone to damage. To enhance the performance of fine silver, it is usually alloyed with other metals, most commonly copper. Alloys can make the silver retain its beauty over time, as well as enhancing its physical properties by improving its strength, durability and resistance to damage and tarnish.
What are the extra metals that are used?
Whilst the most common metal used in sterling silver is copper, other metals can also be used, including zinc, germanium, platinum and various other additives, such as silicon or boron. These metals are usually used to improve the various properties of the sterling alloy, including decreasing resistance to firescale stains and making it less susceptible to corrosion.
Are there any dangerous metals that can be put in silver that I should be wary of?
In the majority of cases, most people will not experience any problems when wearing 925 silver jewellery. Silver is typically known as a non-reactive metal and if worn as jewellery, will not leave any residue on the skin.
However, although allergies are rare, it is important to note that some people can react to certain alloy metals when they make contact with the skin, usually with nickel and occasionally with copper. Especially in hot weather, some sterling silver made with copper can tarnish, causing skin that is sensitive to the metal to suffer a reaction.
If you notice that you have red, itchy skin or a rash after wearing silver jewellery, it is likely that you are allergic to the alloy used in the metal. If this is the case, you should stop wearing the jewellery and seek professional advice from a jeweller who will be able to help you to find a metal that is more suited to your skin.
Why does the price of silver go up and down?
The price of silver is extremely volatile and has been known to fluctuate on a daily, or even hourly, basis. One of the reasons why the price of silver constantly fluctuates is due to the economic conditions of the time and the global demand to reserve and buy silver. As a precious metal, silver holds intrinsic value and is commonly traded as a commodity with investors who are looking to buy it when the price is low and sell it when it is high.
Another reason for the rise and fall in the price of silver is deposit supply. Silver mines only have a limited reserve, meaning that both the quantity and quality of the supply can easily fluctuate. As such, whenever there is a shortage of silver in the market, the price will rocket, whereas an abundance will cause the price to fall.
Where does silver come from? I.e. where is it mined?
Silver is mined from approximately 60 countries worldwide, with Mexico taking the lead, followed by Peru, China, Australia and Russia. Silver is extracted from lode (a natural vein of metal ore in the earth) and valuable, naturally occurring minerals known as placer deposits. Silver is usually mined as a by-product of copper, gold, zinc or lead and is one of the easiest metals to obtain.
How scarce is it? Will it ever run out?
Global supplies of silver have been gradually diminishing over the years, with many scientists predicting that the precious metal is likely to run out not long after this century. However, silver will only run out if the demand continues to rise at a rapid rate and only if no new resources are found. The rising demand and cost of silver means that searching for new deposits will be more cost-effective and in turn, this may increase the likelihood that more silver sources will be found.
Are there any countries / entities who try to manipulate the price of silver on the markets?
Market manipulation in terms of the price of silver is not a new issue and indeed, many of the world’s banks and those trading on the stock exchange realise the ongoing threat that it poses to future prices. In order for a country or entity to affect the price of silver in the marketplace, they first have to be in control of a large proportion of the mineral and secondly, have to have the demand from the buyers.
Of the countries that could possibly control and manipulate the market, two stand atop of the others: the United States and Mexico. The U.S. holds the largest stockpile of silver in the world and also has the largest economy, meaning that the moves they make in the market can affect the buying patterns of others and ultimately manipulate the price. The most common way for the price to be manipulated is through what is known as a ‘paper short position’, whereby the amount of silver traded on the market is far higher than the amount physically produced.
As the world's largest producer of silver, Mexico are in a powerful position due to what is known as ‘futures’. This means that if all investors who only had paper silver and decided to take a physical delivery of the precious metal, then demand would go through the roof and sellers would be encouraged, causing the price to inflate.
Manipulation of the markets is illegal, but that doesn’t mean it is unheard of. Any investors of physical silver are always in a better position than those who just trade shares.
Why is silver so popular as a metal for jewellery? What alternatives are there (ie brass, gold, copper etc)
Apart from its desirable aesthetic qualities that means the metal retains its beauty for years, silver also has a variety of physical properties that make it suitable for jewellery. It’s ductility makes it easy to mould into various shapes, which is perfect for making rings, bracelets, necklaces and other accessories. It is also less reactive than other materials and has a high surface lustre that resists oxidation, meaning that it will not rust. Silver can be modified to achieve a variety of desired effects, including polished, matte, brushed, satin and more.
As pure silver is normally too soft to create long-lasting jewellery products, it is usually alloyed with other metals to enhance its desirable properties even further to withstand regular use.
Iron, nickel, copper and titanium are all metals that tend to corrode easily when they react with the atmosphere and are therefore not the most suitable option for jewellery. Most high quality jewellery is made with precious metals that are resistant to corrosion, have a higher lustre and hold a higher value, including gold, silver and platinum.