If you’ve shopped for jewelry, you’ve probably seen terms like “silver plated,” “fine silver,” “silver tone,” and “sterling silver.” You may be curious to know the differences in these types of metals to help you make an informed buying decision.

In this post, I’m going to tell you a little about sterling silver, and why I choose to use it so often in my work.

The Alloy

In the United States, sterling silver is any alloy containing at least 92.5% silver. Traditional sterling contains 92.5% (or a little more) silver, and the remaining 7.5% or so, copper. There are some newer sterling alloys available to jewelers now, including Argentium(R) and Sterlium Plus(R). Each of these alloys have slightly different properties, but most notably, they are a bit more tarnish-resistant than traditional sterling silver.


I choose to use sterling silver so frequently in my work, because of its affordability, its durability, its beautiful white color, its ability to take on a high polish, and unlike plated metal, it does not have a coating that wears off over time.


Sterling silver does have one drawback that most of its owners are very familiar with: it tarnishes over time. Tarnish is the natural result of oxidation of the metals in the alloy. Sterling silver that is worn frequently against the skin tends to stay bright and shiny due to a combination of friction and natural oils in the skin. Some people have a body chemistry that seems to make silver tarnish faster.

To avoid tarnish, sterling jewelry should be stored in a dry location. The presence of wood will speed up tarnishing. Storing your jewelry in a wooden box isn’t ideal. Tarnish prevention paper or fabric will help slow down the process. If your sterling jewelry does tarnish, there are safe ways to polish it up again. But that’s a blog post for another day…


Cloisonne Enamel Set in Sterling Silver by Michele C. Dodge
Sterling Silver Stacking Rings by Michele C Dodge
Seraphinite Pendant Wrapped in Sterling Silver Wire