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Second only to gold, silver has long held a place in civilizations across the world as a precious and valuable metal, used for coins and, yes, jewelry. Also like gold, silver is very soft and malleable compared to other metals. This property makes it ideal for jewelry in particular, but often requires that it be cut with another metal to form an alloy that is more durable and longer lasting.
In its natural state, silver is 99.9% pure. As mentioned, to get silver to a state that makes it practical for use in jewelry, it needs to be cut with another metal; most often that other element is copper. This combination strengthens the silver without diminishing its natural luster.
The magic number for silver alloy is 925. You may have seen this stamped on the inside of silver rings or silver bracelets. The 925 notes the silver content of the piece: 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of the other alloy metal. Wondering about sterling silver? It’s the exact same thing as 925 silver.
More than most metals, silver is prone to tarnishing when the silver interacts with naturally occurring sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the environment. It is very important to clean the tarnish as soon as possible, as waiting can make it more difficult to clean and present the risk of long-lasting damage. Further, even though 925 silver is an alloy, it is still susceptible to scratches.
Polish your silver jewelry regularly to counter the natural effects of tarnishing. In addition, be mindful where you will be wearing silver jewelry so as to avoid any situations that may present the possibility of scratching.