Silver is the most abundant of all the precious metals. Ancient populations used it for currency, ornaments, silverware and jewelry. Today, silver is utilized in a wide array of industries and market sectors such as electronics, medicine and clothing. Its most common use, however, is in jewelry. Silver earrings, bracelets, watches and rings are attractive, classy and widely available.
In its purest state, silver can be as soft as gold. For this reason, the metal is generally alloyed with copper to add strength. Silver is a strong and durable metal, and is known for the ease in which it can be shaped into various patterns and designs. The finish of silver depends on the techniques applied. It can be matted, brushed, sandblasted or oxidized. It can also be polished to a high sheen that even platinum cannot attain. Sometimes silver will take on a worn-looking finish in reaction to the wearer's skin. Before purchasing silver jewelry, you should establish that you are not allergic to silver.
Sterling silver has a much higher purity than ordinary silver. At 92.5 percent purity, its reflective qualities allow its use in bold and innovative designs. The most popular form of silver on the jewelry market, sterling silver is usually distinguished by the stamp "sterling" or "0.925".
With proper care, your fine quality silver will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage, store your silver jewelry either in a cloth pouch or in a separate compartment in your jewelry box. Avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals like bleach, ammonia, or chlorinated water. Silver can build tarnish on its surface without proper care.
To keep your silver looking pristine:
Most designer and high-end silver jewelry comes with a finish to prevent tarnishing. If a jeweler does work on the piece or it gets a great deal of wear, this finish will wear off and the piece will tarnish like any other piece. Try to preserve the protective finish as long as possible.
Take care to prevent silver tarnish build-up, a dulling that naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the ambient air. To clean your silver, use polishes formulated specifically to remove tarnish. You can find fine silver polishes, solutions or cloths appropriate to remove tarnish at most hardware stores or specialty craft stores. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible.
Although wearing your silver jewelry often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up, regular cleanings of all your silver items will keep your silver bright and sparkling.
Look for the fineness mark and the maker's mark on the underside of a silver item you are considering to ensure the quality.