JUST WHAT IS STERLING SILVER?
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver & 7.5% copper or other metal which is used to give this metal strength and durability. Silver that is 99.9% silver is usually called 'fine' or 'pure' silver. However, pure silver is too soft to be practical for everyday use.
Generally, the higher the silver content, the brighter or whiter the metal but beware of 'antiquing' effects that can make a piece of sterling silver jewellery or decorative silverware that makes it look dark.
Sterling silver is a precious metal in its own right and must contain 92.5% silver - this is a legal standard of purity set by the assay offices in Britain and used for most silver jewellery throughout the world.
Goods made for international trade are often marked '925' indicating the 92.5% fineness.
'Coin' silver is used in some countries and may be marked 900 or 800, again, depending on its fineness.
Sterling silver jewellery and components made in the USA are often just stamped 'sterling'. Also, in the USA, The National Gold & Silver Marketing Act, does NOT require precious metals to be marked with quality.
Other markings may be seen that are less clear - 'montana', 'mexican' and 'indian' silver do not guarantee any silver content. Items marked as 'german silver', another name for 'nickel silver', do not contain any silver at all, but are an alloy of copper, nickel & zinc!