Frequently Asked Questions About Sterling Silver Jewelry

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”.

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.

Other silver items are rhodium plated, which again results in a bright, shiny finish. Some 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 sterling silver jewelry looking great for years to come. Frequent light polishing with a polishing cloth designed for sterling silver 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.

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. 

Sterling silver jewelry information courtesy of MMA International's Silver Stars Collection.