Sterling silver is one of the most beloved of the precious metals, generally less expensive than gold but with a lustrous finish and many versatile applications. It’s a popular material for use on rings, earrings and other jewellery items, thanks to its pliable and supple nature mixed with its aesthetically appealing finish.
While it is harder than gold, it’s still malleable and easily hammered and molded into different shapes. It melts at a lower temperature than gold, with copper or another metal added to pure silver to add strength and rigidity. There’s usually around 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper in sterling silver, hence the .925 stamp on all sterling silver products.
Anatolia, now called Turkey, was the home of the first major silver mines in 4000 BC, providing the main source of silver around the world. Around 2500 BC, the Chinese worked to refine silver to make it more sought after and alluring, plus easier to excavate. Over time, more mines followed suit, and Greece became the main provider of silver to the globe. Spain eventually took over and used its silver for trading purposes.
Mexico and Peru soon discovered silver mines that took over the world, and these countries are still the major players today. As the mining styles travelled throughout the world when new silver mines were discovered, different styles and ways to wear silver were picked up from different cultures. Stones such as diamonds were added, and necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings were created to showcase stunning precious gems. Men and women in historic times have been known to wear jewellery, both gold and silver, as a way of showing their power.
Today’s sterling silver used in jewellery is often highly polished to reflect light, however silver comes in a range of finishes. It can tarnish if there are impurities in the silver that react with air, however silver polish and regular maintenance can prevent this.