What is the difference between fine and sterling silver?

Have you wondered what the difference between fine and sterling silver is? Ever noticed those numbers stamped on jewelry and wondered what they mean? Have you noticed the price difference between fine and sterling and said, why is one so much more if they are both silver? I got the answers for you!

What is Fine silver and what is Sterling silver?

Both are silver. The difference is in their composition. Fine silver, also known as pure silver is just that. You will see this marked on some pieces as "999". That is the hallmark stamp for fine silver. Sterling silver is technically an alloy that is made of two metals. It is mostly silver and a little bit of copper. You will see this marked on some pieces as "925" for sterling, or sometimes you may see the word "sterling". 

Why use one over the other?

Silver Prophecy Jewelry uses all sterling silver jewelry for two reasons. One is that since fine silver is pure silver, it's more expensive! That makes sense right? The second is that Sterling silver is more durable than Fine. Remember that I said it's actually an alloy? Here's where those numbers start to make sense. Fine silver is marked as 99.9% Pure Silver (essentially 100%) and Sterling silver is 92.5% Silver AND 7.5% Copper. That extra bit of copper is what makes Sterling silver more durable and strong. Fine silver does not have that added strength and therefore makes it too soft to typically use in jewelry. Sometimes it may be used in embellishments or certain parts of pieces (the most common is as a bezel for a stone setting) but the bulk of a piece is typically always sterling.

Do they both tarnish?

Now that you know that Sterling silver is an alloy that contains copper, copper is the element that really causes Sterling silver to tarnish. Pure or Fine Silver does not tarnish as easily because of this. Tarnish is simply a surface level reaction based on the environment the silver is in. There are ways to prevent this and also removal. If you want to learn more on this topic read my blog about it here!

How can I tell if my silver is Fine or Sterling?

On Silver Prophecy Jewelry pieces I usually stamp dangle earrings and other pieces with the "925" hallmark. On pieces that have chain, such as necklaces and chain bracelets, I have a little tag that is attached to the clasp that is stamped with "sterling". I will be honest that my early work did not have the 925 stamp, however I only work with Sterling silver.

Looking at other pieces of silver jewelry, look for the "999" or "925" stamp usually marked on the back or inside of a piece. Another way to tell if you have a silver piece is to try a simple magnet test.

A note about Silver Plated

Silver is a non-ferrous metal. What does that mean? It's not magnetic! All actual Silver pieces will not stick to a magnet, this includes Sterling silver. If you have a "Silver" piece of jewelry that sticks to a magnet, this is is most likely Silver Plated. That means that the core of the piece is another type of metal and then dipped in a layer of silver. Pieces like this usually are only labeled as Silver Plated and not stamped with the hallmarks mentioned about.

Silver Prophecy Jewelry does not believe in Silver Plated jewelry. While this can be a very affordable option, I believe in providing beautiful long lasting investments. Plating can wear with use, losing all that beautiful silver. Not to mention you don't always know what the core metal is. That is not something I am comfortable with. I provide peace of mind only by offering solid Sterling silver pieces that will last you a lifetime and be perfect to wear as your next favorite piece! See what's available now in my shop by clicking the link here!

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