Is Sterling Silver Real or Fake?

sterling silver

Is Sterling Silver Real Silver? Yes, Sterling silver is real silver. Sterling silver is a metal made with 92.5% silver and 7.5% other alloys. It is also known as 925 silver. The number 925, comes from sterling silver’s composition of 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% is made up of alloys, such as copper, to enhance the durability of the metal. If the silver was entirely pure, it would be too soft and malleable, make it impossible to shape during the manufacturing process.

As a savvy jewelry shopper, you may have wondered if sterling silver jewelry is the right choice for you. But just what is sterling silver, and how does it stack up to other metals?  To determine if sterling silver is the right metal type for you, keep reading as we dive into its beauty, versatility, care guide, as well as our tips and tricks for spotting sterling silver imposters.


What is the difference between sterling silver and fine silver?

Sterling silver is only 92.5% pure, fine silver is 99.9% pure. Similar to sterling silver, fine silver is made with 0.1% of copper alloys to enhance the strength of the metal. Between the two metals, fine silver is exclusively used for silver bullion bars in the trade market and sterling silver is more widely used in jewelry.

Is sterling silver a good quality?

Sterling silver makes for great quality jewelry and home goods that can last a lifetime with proper care. The copper alloys in sterling silver greatly increase the metal’s durability, making sterling silver jewelry the perfect choice for daily wear at a far more affordable price than 18k gold, titanium, and platinum pieces.

Not only does sterling silver look great on all skin types and styles, but this metal can also be enjoyed across home goods such as bowls, vases, and centerpieces. In fact, Tiffany & Co. makes countless sterling silver trophies, including the outstanding 7-pound and 22-inch Superbowl trophy that every football team covets.

How do you know if sterling silver is real?

Though sterling silver does not come with outrageous prices, these pieces certainly are not cheap. You want to ensure that you are always buying genuine sterling silver jewelry and not a silver-plated or stainless steel dupe. Below are simple tests that will let you instantly know if you are looking at true sterling silver.

  • Check for sterling silver stamping hallmarks on the jewelry such as “925,” “Ster,” “Sterling,” or “Sterling Silver.” In the US, these stamping hallmarks are mandatory to keep silver regulated.
  • As odd as this sounds, smell the sterling silver piece. Genuine sterling silver has no distinct smell.
  • Hold a magnet to the sterling silver. Real sterling silver will not attach to the magnet.
  • Rub the sterling silver with a soft white cloth and check if any black marks appear on the cloth. Authentic sterling silver oxidizes over time and leaves black marks.

Does sterling silver tarnish?

Yes, sterling silver tarnishes over time. The copper alloys in sterling silver react with sulfur and moisture in the air, resulting in tarnishing that takes a yellow or black tint. Tarnishing can also occur if the sterling silver comes into contact with cleaning products, cosmetics, and even our sweat.

To prevent tarnishing, be sure to:

  • Avoid wearing sterling silver in the pool, while taking a shower, or cleaning.
  • Always let your makeup, perfume, and hair products dry before putting on sterling silver jewelry.
  • Dry your sterling silver immediately if it gets wet.

Some sterling silver jewelry is sold with a rhodium coating to make it tarnish-resistant while giving the piece a glossy finish. This option is a great choice for jewelry lovers who want the affordability of sterling silver without worrying about accidental tarnishing from daily wear.

How to clean sterling silver

Despite how easily sterling silver can tarnish, cleaning your sterling silver is painless. With just a simple polishing, you can buff away tarnishing and improve your jewelry’s luster. All you need is a silver polishing cloth (or microfiber cloth) and a specialized sterling silver cleaning product. Never use chemical cleaners or paper towels because they can cause lasting damage.

To clean your sterling silver jewelry, just apply the sterling silver cleaner according to its instructions and use gentle back and forth motions with the soft cloth to clean the piece. You can also meet with a professional jeweler to have your sterling silver expertly cleaned and polished.

Once your sterling silver is clean, place it in a pouch or jewelry box and store it in a cool, dry place.

Now that you have become an expert on all things sterling silver, are you planning on adding sterling silver pieces to your jewelry box? With the right care, your next sterling silver jewelry purchase can soon become a treasured family heirloom to be passed down for future generations to enjoy.

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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