Many times silver and sterling silver are mistakenly described as the same thing. But what some people don’t realize is that silver is a pure metal with no other metals contained in it – it has a content of 99.9% pure silver. When you see the term “fine silver” this is what they are referring to. Sterling Silver on the other hand, is an alloy. This means that it is made up of primarily silver, but as well as a combination of other metals. Sterling silver is approximately 92.5% silver and the remaining 7.5% is made up of other metals such as copper and steel.
Why Does Sterling Silver Contain Other Metals?
Pure silver, while a metal, is actually quite soft. If you were to make utensils (forks and knives) out of pure silver they would bend and not hold their rigidity. This is precisely why sterling silver was created. People wanted to make utilitarian items out of the beautifully shiny metal but the softness wouldn’t allow these items to hold up over time. By adding in around 7.5% of other metals such as copper and steel, the new alloy (sterling silver) was much stronger and more stable but retained the white, shiny look that was desired. This is why you see sterling silver used in utensils such as forks, knives and spoons, as well as tea sets and other useful household items.
The downside to sterling silver vs silver is that sterling silver will tarnish more easily. While all silver (pure or sterling) will tarnish over time, the other metals in sterling allow the alloy to oxidize quicker. This is why you will frequently have to polish your silver to keep it shiny and free from oxidation.
To summarize, there is one major difference between sterling silver and fine silver:
1. Sterling Silver is an alloy made of approximately 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% is made up of other metals such as copper, steel and sometimes even iron. This makes it stronger and less expensive. Fine silver is composed of 99.9% pure silver and as such is more expensive.