DakotaMainStreet - Sterling Silver

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What is STERLING Silver?

Pure silver, like pure gold, is too soft to be durable, and must be mixed (alloyed) with other metals. Copper and zinc are preferred choices. They toughen the alloy while enhancing silver's bright natural sheen.

Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver alloyed with copper or zinc.

The name comes from the Easterling area of Germany where the original silver craftsmen lived.

According to ancient mystic lore, silver can ward off werewolves and other demons, and some claim it enhances psychic powers. Today, most of the world's mined silver comes from Mexico, the US, Peru, Canada and Australia. Nearly a fifth of the world's output comes from Mexico.

Most sterling jewelry is stamped 92.5 (or simply 925) as are these two pieces below, from Mexico and Italy.

Mexican Sterling, stamped 92.5

Italian Sterling silver stamped 92.5

How can you tell if silverware IS Sterling? Will it always say Sterling on it?  

If it doesn't say "silverplate" can we assume that it's Sterling?

If a piece is Sterling, the maker will want you to know. Unscrupulous dealers may mark Sterling on a piece that is in fact, not, but I have never been aware that this is a common problem.

A good sure way to test for silver or gold is to take the piece to your local pawnshop. They'll drop a spot of acid (on the silver <g>)and be able to tell you for sure.

There will be a small amount of remaining discoloration from the test.

If a magnet sticks, you know you do NOT have Sterling. You have Stainless Steel. But *not-sticking* is no guarantee that a piece will be Sterling. Lots of silver-plate is over nickel/brass which is not magnetic either.

What to do about tarnish...

Silver tarnishes by reaction with corrosive gases in the atmosphere, most commonly sulfur and chlorine.

For jewelry or other small silver pieces... Sew some activated charcoal (at petstores) into the finger of an old cotton glove, and place with silver in an airtight container, such as a ziplock bag, or tupperware.

Ordinary silver polishes contain fine abrasive, and some silver is removed with each cleaning. Dip solutions may cause skin irritation, and don't smell good but are the only way to clean satin finish silver without making them shinier. Never use a dip cleaner or electrolysis on antique silver.  

We recommend - and sell - 4 different products that clean, polish and retard further tarnishing, to prolong the life of your fine jewelry.


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Mitchell, SD 57301

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online home of Geyerman's Mercantile Company  

Phone 605.996.7478

Shopkeeper to the Heartland since 1852

Fax: 605.996.7478

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