925 Sterling silver
Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. It melts at 1640 degrees Fahrenheit. Sterling Silver is one of the most popular metals in the jewelry trade. People with allergies to other metals can safely use this metal.
The Timeless Elegance of Sterling Silver
Silver in its natural state is 99% pure, too soft and malleable to be used effectively for any practical purposes. A multi-faceted metal, it is used extensively for coins, utensils, storage containers, jewelry and other decorative pieces. It is alloyed with copper or zinc to toughen up. Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. It melts at 1640 degrees Fahrenheit. Sterling Silver is one of the most popular metals in the jewelry trade. People with allergies to other metals can safely use this metal.
Sterling Silver is incorrectly referred to as solid silver, which it is not. The United States Stamping Act of 1906 has set a standard of 925 parts of pure silver with 75 parts of added metal, preferably copper. As per this Act, any article stamped ‘sterling’ is assured of a particular quality standard. Sterling Silver is durable and long lasting and so is a popular metal for rings, necklaces, bracelets, cuff links, belt buckles, body jewelry and much more.
Origin of Sterling Silver
The reference to Sterling Silver was first made in England, in the 13th century, with regard to .925 grade of silver. There are different theories as to the origin of the word ‘Sterling’. By one school of thought, it emerged from the Old French word ‘esterlin’ and transformed to ‘stiere’. ‘Stiere’ means strong, firm and immovable in Old English.
Another school of thought mentions an area in Germany known as ‘The Easterling’ According to them Sterling Silver was first known as Easterling Silver and was used as a local currency. The towns in the Easterling area started trading with England around the 12th century and paid for the English cattle and grain with their local currency, which was in the form of 92.5% silver coins. Of a reliable high quality and hardness, these coins came to be known as ‘the coins of the Easterlings’ in England.
To set similar standards for English coins, King Henry II invited metal refiners from the Easterling to make silver coins for England. The silver produced by these refiners were later adopted as standard alloy throughout England and the term ‘Easterling Silver’ was thought to have abbreviated to ‘Sterling Silver’.
According to another theory, mint marks on Sterling Silver had included a star and hence it is a corruption of the term ‘Starling’ silver.
Sterling Silver as Dining Regalia
The century between 1840 and 1940 was the time when it was fashionable to use Sterling Silver flatware to set the table. During the height of its popularity from 1870 to 1920, flatware included up to a 100 pieces. From the usual three courses, the dinning experience went up to ten courses, and sometimes more! The courses included:
* A soup course
* A salad course
* A fruit course
* A cheese course
* An antipasto course
* A fish course
* The main course
* A pastry or dessert course
There was an implement for every kind of food. Etiquettes dictated during the Victorian period that no food be touched by hand while eating. One could not use the same spoon, fork or knife for different courses and foods. There were teaspoons, coffee spoons, demitasse spoons, bouillon spoons, gumbo soup spoons, iced tea spoons, dinner forks, place forks, salad forks, pastry forks, shrimp or cocktail forks, terrapin forks and dinner knifes, place knifes, butter spreaders, fruit knifes, cheese knifes. These were elaborately decorated silverware. Sterling Silver serving pieces included carving knives and forks, salad knives and forks, cold meat forks, punch ladles, soup ladles, gravy ladles, casserole serving spoons, berry spoons, lasagna servers, macaroni servers, asparagus servers, cucumber servers, tomato servers, olive spoons, cheese scoops, fish knives and forks, pastry servers, petit four servers, cake knifes, bon bon spoons, sugar sifters or casters and crumb removers with brush. There were various pieces for tea services like teapots, trays and salvers, goblets and a variety of cups.
The popularity of Sterling silver was so high that it spilled to the business world with its paper pins and clips to calling card boxes to cigarette cases.
The use of Sterling Silver as dining regalia reduced after the World War II. It was increasingly becoming difficult to maintain a large staff required for fancy dining, such as a ten-course meal.
The Tarnishing of Sterling Silver
Though Sterling Silver is highly popular for designing jewelry it gets tarnished easily. Chemically speaking, silver does not react with oxygen or water at ordinary temperatures. The copper content of Sterling Silver does react with oxygen. Silver reacts with sulfur and the tarnish is black silver sulfide on its surface. Silver blackens faster with the higher levels of airborne sulfur pollutants.
Tarnishing can be removed from Sterling Silver in many ways:
* Serious collectors of Sterling Silver prefer the hand polishing method of removing tarnish. It brings out the beautiful luster of silver without marring its patina. Use well-known products as inferior products may cause scratches. Ensure the piece to be cleaned is free from dust and grease before applying the polishing product. Use a soft cloth to hand polish. After polishing, use dishwashing liquid to remove excess polish. Rinse in hot water and buff with a soft cloth.
* If the tarnish is in extreme, you may need to take your silver piece to a jeweler. Using the jeweler’s wheel to remove tarnish may also remove the patina, which gives antique silver its glow. Serious collectors do not prefer this method.
* People use products, containing thiourea, in which they dip their Sterling Silver pieces. The piece attains its brightness by conversion of silver sulfide to a white substance. This is also not a preferred method.
Recently, experiments have been made to replace copper with germanium to give a high resistance to tarnish.
Care of Sterling Silver
Sterling Silver items require great care. The metal is soft and can easily get dented if hit against a hard surface. In case of teapots or similar items, care should be taken that hinges do not get mishandled. Never use a hard brush to clean your Sterling Silver items as it can leave unwanted scratches on the surface.
Sterling Silver products that are regularly polished will retain their sheen and patina and never lose its timeless elegance.