Pure silver possesses a unique, lustrous white color, which, for centuries, made it a very desirable choice for jewelry manufacture. Pure silver is relatively soft, so around the 12th century pure silver was alloyed with copper to increase its hardness and strength. The new alloy, called sterling silver, was more durable than pure silver and better suited for use in jewelry and other applications. Sterling silver must contain a minimum of 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% most frequently copper.
One of the biggest concerns with sterling silver is tarnishing, a darkening of the metal's surface caused by exposure to sulfer-containing gasses in the air. One solution was the creation of a new sterling alloy to reduce the rate of tarnish by replacing some of the copper with other metals. If you don’t have sterling silver made with the tarnish reducing alloy, other ways to slow the tarnish rate include storing the jewelry in anti-tarnish bags or periodically cleaning the piece with a tarnish-removal agent. 100 East Fine Jewelry provides a complimentary anti-tarnish bag with any sterling silver jewelry item we sell.
If you want to learn more about the precious metals we use in our jewelry, feel free to visit our Education and Resources page.