There are so many different types of costume and vintage jewelry, whether it be pins and brooches or necklaces and rings. You want to know Which settings are most durable? Which jewelry clasps are best for securing and easiest to manipulate. How long is a choker necklace? What type of metal? A good understanding of jewelry terms and jewelry components makes it so much easier to buy the "right" jewelry when you shop. Today, We will focus this article on purchasing sterling silver jewelry.
Silver has been used to make jewelry since ancient times. Did you know the western hemisphere uncovered more productive silver mines than the European mines? More silver has been mined since the late 1700's than in all prior centuries combined. Now you ask, What is Silver? Silver is a soft metal in its pure form. It is much too soft to be used for jewelry and other items. So, one needs to mix the "pure" silver with other metals to make it more durable. A popular silver mixture, called an alloy, is known as sterling silver. Copper is the most common metal used to round out the 7.5 percent alloy balance in sterling silver.
Jewelry sold in the US cannot be marked or described as silver, solid silver or sterling silver, unless it contains at least 92.5 percent pure silver. If your not sure the piece you are buying is real, flip the piece over and search for the jewelers mark of 925 or 92.5. If no mark is seen, the piece is not silver!
Now you made the purchase of your silver piece, how do you keep it clean? The one complaint I hear most about sterling silver is that it tarnishes. Yes, it does. In time, silver tarnishes from the interaction of silver and sulfides in the air. The tarnish will take on a golden hue, and eventually, it will turn the piece black. This is a natural process. Higher sulfide levels are associated with humidity and/or air pollution. Keep in mind that the more humid the climate, the faster sterling will tarnish. Purchase an inexpensive Chemically treated soft cloth like a "Sunshine cloth" at your local jewelers, this will make the job a lot easier and faster. Sterling silver will polish up by rubbing or buffing. Just remember, the simplest way is usually the best way. It will make your piece look brand new again.