Pure silver is 99.9% silver, where sterling silver is 92.5% silver with copper, zinc or nickel added for strength. Pure silver is more pliable and not suited for larger objects or where strength is needed, such as in bowls or silverware. The name sterling silver came from the Easterling area of Germany where silversmiths developed sterling silver alloy. Pure silver is too soft to hold shapes well and difficult to mold into everyday objects. Sterling silver is more durable and typically marked with the hallmark number 925, which indicates 92.5% pure silver.
Pure silver will tarnish, but sterling silver is less prone to tarnishing. Pure silver may turn almost black or leave green marks on the skin when worn as jewelry. Sterling silver is shinier than pure silver because it is typically polished. Silver that is 90% or less pure is known as coin silver, and coins were minted from it once, although not at the current time. Prices of silver fluctuate with trading markets, but pure silver is worth considerably more than sterling silver.
Differences Between Sterling Silver & 925 Sterling Silver
Jewelry and decorative items made from silver and sterling silver have been prized for centuries. Silver’s designations can be confusing. There is no difference between sterling silver and 925 sterling silver. Silver’s purity carries a numeric designation based on 1,000.
Pure silver usually carries a 999 rating. Sterling silver must be 92.5 percent pure (or 925) to be classified as sterling silver. Silver’s chemical symbol is Ag, and it has an atomic number of 47. In its purest form, silver is very soft, and therefore not very functional for jewelry or utensils.