If you've ever browsed the aisles of a jewelry store, you've likely encountered a lot of terms referring to the silver selection. Silver filled, sterling silver...what do these mean? Knowing the difference between sterling silver and silver filled is important; it will dictate the quality of your piece and how you should take care of it. This is critically important if you want something that’s truly valuable. Let's take a look at these unique terms.
Know Your Silvers: Which Type Is the Most Valuable?
To understand the difference, you must first understanding what's an alloy. An alloy refers to a mix of two or more metals. By combining these different substances, you infuse them with new properties. For example, steel is stronger than iron and will impart that strength when mixed with another substance. In jewelry, alloys are sometimes used to strengthen softer metals, but they’re also used to reduce the cost of a particular piece. A silver filled piece, for example, is going to be less expensive than sterling silver but has significantly less silver content. Alloys are used in filled and sterling silver, but each method employs different amounts of pure silver.
What Is Silver Filled?
Technically, “silver filled” is a bit of a misnomer. Instead of a piece that’s literally filled with silver, it’s simply has an underlying base metal covered by a thin layer of silver. The top layer of silver really only contains about 5% silver! Applications for silver filled jewelry tend to be used for costume jewelry, as filled silver isn’t remarkably valuable or durable. Silver filled pieces also have a tendency to degrade quickly and scratch easily, meaning they shouldn't be worn frequently. This isn’t the lowest quality option available, but if you're the type of person who loves to wear jewelry on a daily basis or you’re looking for something more valuable, filled silver isn’t your best option.
What About Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is the crème de la crème, as close to pure silver as you can get without completely losing durability. Whereas pure, fine silver is 99.9% silver, it’s also easily tarnished and dented. Sterling silver provides durability and exceptional value. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure and is usually alloyed with copper. It's been used since the late 10th century in jewelry, currency, and other applications.
Usually, jewelers will stamp the piece with "925" or "925 silver," indicating the percentage of silver parts per thousand. Sterling silver is the best option for jewelry because it still retains the brilliance and value of pure silver but is much more durable because of its copper alloy. Sterling silver is relatively easy to take care of and can be polished using a soft cloth and some warm soap and water.
McVan Inc. has a wide selection of beautiful sterling silver religious jewelry. We only carry sterling silver because we want to provide excellent value and longevity with all our pieces. Browse our catalog of radiant sterling silver for more information.