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Jewelry Education

Sterling silver buying guide

16 Apr 2020


Silver is a precious metal, along with gold, palladium and platinum. Silver, in particular, is excellent for jewelry because it is easy to work with and has a beautiful luminous light gray color.

Pure silver or fine silver, is very soft and easily damaged. Like gold, it is alloyed with other metals to make it durable enough for everyday wear.

The most common alloy for silver is consists of of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper to give sterling silver. Although any metal can make up the 7.5% non-silver portion of the alloy, copper is the best option for improving the metal's hardness and durability without affecting its color.


Sterling silver is hallmarked 925 to indicate that the alloy consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. Other sterling silver hallmarks are STER, STERLING, STG or Sterling silver.

Fine silver is another alloy, which is 99.9% silver and 1% slight trace elements. Although fine silver contains a higher quantity of silver, it is a poor choice for jewelry. The softness means it is easily damaged and will lose its shape over time.

Silver jewelry that is not hallmarked is likely to be silver-plated or nickel. Always keep an eye out for the hallmark to be sure.

Other names for silver include Britannia silver (95.8% silver), coin silver, German silver, nickel silver and tribal silver.

To be on the safe side, stick to sterling silver jewelry that is hallmarked accordingly.


Sterling silver can range from bright white to light grey and can have a matt or shiny finish.

At Azarai, all of our sterling silver engagement rings and wedding rings are coated with rhodium to create a lustrous and long-lasting shine similar to white gold.

Rhodium is a member of the platinum metal family. A s a coating, it gives sterling silver jewelry a very bright and shiny finish. It also protects the jewelry against tarnish - a dulling or blackening effect which occurs when silver reacts with sulfur in the air.

Please note that rhodium plating is only a thin layer on the sterling silver. The coating will wear out over time and needs to be re-applied every few months. We offer complimentary rhodium-plating on all Azarai sterling silver wedding rings within the one-year warranty period.

With rhodium plating — and proper care — sterling silver jewelry can look polished and shiny for years without tarnishing.

Without the rhodium-plating, sterling silver reverts to its light gray patina which a lot of people find attractive. Re-applying the rhodium plating is a matter of personal preference and is not a requirement. Your sterling silver jewelry will still look great with regular cleaning and polishing.


Sterling silver is durable and long-lasting, although it is quite soft and easily scratched. If any surface scratching or damage does occur, sterling silver is easily polished back to its smooth shine.

Besides, it is easy to resize and repair sterling silver unlike some other metals.

Sterling silver is much more affordable than other precious metals: gold, palladium and platinum; making sterling silver perfect for every budget.

Sterling silver does not irritate your skin or cause allergies. Most metal allergies are caused by nickel, and all of our sterling silver jewelry is nickel-free.


Sterling silver is more prone to tarnishing than other precious metals. Tarnish is a dulling or blackening effect that occurs naturally when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the air.

The speed of the tarnishing depends on the water and chemicals that you come in contact with. There is sulfur in sweat and air moisture, as well as soaps, detergents and cosmetics. Sulfur is also found in wool, rubber bands, some types of paint, latex gloves, and more.

In some rare cases, your sweat could also react more with your sterling silver jewelry resulting in faster tarnishing.

Please note that tarnish is a natural phenomenon that occurs with all sterling silver. It is not a manufacturing defect.

It is very easy to clean tarnished silver so don't be alarmed if you experience it. Rest assured, sterling silver does not "change colour" or "wash". While you can't stop sterling silver from tarnishing, you can take measures to slow it down considerably.

Please view our detailed sterling silver care and maintenance guide here.


White gold and sterling silver appear almost identical. This is especially true when both metals have been rhodium-plated.

There are however some significant differences:

Value: While both sterling silver and white gold are precious metals, white gold is much more expensive than sterling silver.

Maintenance: White gold is easier to maintain than sterling silver because it does not tarnish or oxidise. For this reason, it requires little to no cleaning to maintain its luster. Over time though the rhodium plating applied to white gold will wear thin and it will begin to show a yellowish tinge. White gold requires maintenance in that the rhodium plating needs to be re-applied every 6 to 12 months.

Durability: White gold is more resistant to damage and scratches than silver. It is the better choice if durability is a more significant factor than the budget.


Sterling silver is very durable if cared for properly. Silver rings can also be easily and inexpensively repaired Sterling silver is relatively soft and will scratch and bend under repetitive daily wear, pressure or sudden knocks
Sterling silver is an exquisitely beautiful and luminous precious metal Sterling silver jewelry will eventually tarnish and needs regular cleaning and polishing to maintain its luster
It is very affordable compared to gold and platinum. It provides lasting value for money compared to cheap silver-plated jewelry Sterling silver does not have a high resale value relative to gold. This is because scrap sterling silver is very cheap compared to scrap gold and is also in less demand
Silver is malleable which makes it ideal for all sorts of really creative and stunning jewelry designs at an affordable price
Sterling silver offers a much better long-term value than cheap stainless steel or silver-plated jewelry and is still very affordable
Sterling silver is hypoallergenic. People who are allergic to metals such as nickel and brass can wear sterling silver without issues


We have created a comprehensive sterling silver care guide here.
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