Silver is an element (chemical symbol: Ag) long used by mankind for currency, jewellery, industry and even for therapeutic purposes. By contrast, 925 (.925) sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent of another metal, usually copper.
Pure or near-pure silver has some uses, especially as a store of value in the form of bullion that is 99.9 per cent silver. But it is too soft for making coins, jewellery and other items that are handled often.
For thousands of years, metalworkers have hardened silver by alloying it with other metals--that is, heating both metals until they melt, then mixing them. Many different silver alloys are possible, but one of the most common metals to mix with silver is copper.
The acceptable standard for silver purity has varied from place to place and century to century. For example, the best-quality silver in France and some other European countries is 95 per cent pure, while pre-1964 U.S. coins contained 90 per cent silver.
The British Standard
Long ago the term "sterling" became associated with 92.5 per cent silver in Britain, perhaps because of its association with a similarly named silver coin that circulated after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. The term gained worldwide acceptance during the heyday of the British Empire in the 19th century, during which time sterling-silver jewellery and silverware dramatically increased in popularity.
Sterling Silver Today
Sterling remains a kind of silver to this day, popular with silversmiths and jewellers for its firm yet malleable nature, and still a hit among owners for its beauty. It is often called "925 silver" or ".925 silver," which are shorthand ways of referring to the purity of its silver content.
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