Sterling Silver vs. Silver Plating

1Silver is a beautiful thing to own and many people have something made of silver at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to keep it looking bright and illuminated. Over time silver tends to lose its gleam and this is due to a number of things. It also depends on what it’s used for and what kind of silver it is. Once you have a silver piece clean and bright it’s great to polish it. Polishing silver will help ensure it looks gorgeous for a long period of time and this also protects it from a buildup of tarnish which muddies its beauty but not its value.

2Today I’ll show you how to polish silver the right way but right now I’m first going to delve into a lesson on the difference between sterling silver and silver plate. The term sterling silver is an English speaking term and not all silver is marked sterling. There are other ways to determine if the metal you have is silver like if the piece is marked .925 and some 3are marked with the mark of a hallmark lion stamped on it. Silver that is marked sterling is always marked somewhere on the item and it is usually found on the bottom. Sterling silver made in the US after the 1850’s always has a sterling marking on it. If the item of question is silver plate then they will usually give you the manufacturers name and such but will not say sterling. If the piece doesn’t say sterling, .925 or have the hallmark of a lion, it’s safe to assume that the item is just silver plated. Sterling silver always has a good value whereas silver plate is never as valuable as sterling silver.

4Speaking in general, sterling silver is probably worth about four or five times the value of something that is only silver plated. When it comes to sterling silver it doesn’t matter how ugly, beat up, or tarnished it looks; it can always be cleaned up and polished to look beautiful again because it is virtually solid silver. That is one of the great things about sterling silver. On the other hand, something that is silver plated has a much different story. If it’s too far gone it would leave you with either the option to re-plate it or dispose of it. Silver plate is just a layer of sterling silver over a base metal. Once that silver wears down you are only left with the ugly base metal exposed. Items will never be made of pure silver because it is much too soft on its own. This is why silver also contains copper to give it strength and make it ridged. Sterling silver usually has about .075 % of a copper additive. This is where the .925 marking comes from. Sometimes silver may even show the fraction marking 925/1000 but this is not often seen these days. If you are unsure of a pieces value, you can take it to a professional and they can run a test to check if it is in fact sterling silver and not just a plating using an acid.