The silver content of sterling silver must be at least 92.5 percent silver. Precious metals are not required by law in the United States to have a quality stamp. Marking is required in certain European nations. Many visitors in the United States (as well as overseas internet customers) will be skeptical of items supplied without precious-metal grade insignia. While gold and silver do go into many decorative items that are sold at luxury stores, this fact alone should not discourage you from buying them. They are still only materials - until they are made into objects that are used for jewelry, clothing, or other accessories - and therefore cannot claim to be worth more than their weight in metal.
All sterling silver can look beautiful, but some brands are known for using cheaper materials in their products. If you are buying online, check the ingredients list to make sure you aren't getting fooled by fake marks.
Silver has two main forms of alloy: solid solution and electrodeposited. Solid solution alloys contain small amounts of copper, zinc, nickel, and/or other elements. These elements are present in such small quantities that they do not affect their ability to be melted down and re-used over and over again. Electrodeposited silver contains larger amounts of other metals such as lead, antimony, and bismuth which make it unsuitable for recycling.
Sterling silver is pure silver that has been heated until its surface becomes white with a thin layer of oxide.
The great majority of sterling silver objects bear a quality mark, which is a subtle marking that confirms purity. These markings will state ".925," "925," "S925," or "Sterling." Along with the quality mark, the object must also bear a hallmark (the maker's registered mark). There are five main hallmarks on sterling silver.
Silver that does not bear a quality mark or a hallmark is called "raw" or "unworked" silver.
As well as being unmarked, raw silver can also be broken, bent, or otherwise damaged. This doesn't affect its value, but it does make it more difficult to sell. So always check that any piece of silver you are thinking of buying has a quality mark and a hallmark on it.
Some countries have laws requiring silver to be marked with its purity level. For example, Germany requires that silver bars contain the phrase "Bars and plates - 925/1000" to indicate that they are 95% silver.
Other countries' laws require only that silver be marked with its weight and the word "silver" rather than its purity level. For example, India requires that silver coins contain 32.15 grams of silver per 100 rupees ($0.35) coin.
In general, if all silver has a hallmark then it is pure; if not, then some part of it may include other metals.
It isn't labelled silver. This may appear apparent, but it is also quite telling. Mis-marking and mis-representation of precious metal jewelry is illegal and punishable by penalties. As a result, genuine, robust, and high-quality silver jewelry should have the following hallmarks: SS, 925, ST, Sterling, or even plain Silver.
All silver jewelry should have legal marks that guarantee its authenticity. If you are not sure whether your jewelry has these marks, ask before you wear it! Also make sure you don't get anyone else's mark on your jewelry - such as your name, phone number, or address. These could be used to identify your jewelry if it was ever lost or stolen.
Precious metals are an investment tool like any other. You should only buy gold or silver if you plan to hold it for a long time. If you are not going to use it within a few years, it isn't worth buying. Marked jewelry is useful when trying to sell or trade your pieces. People can tell how much real silver or gold an item contains just by looking at it. This means you can easily estimate how much it might be worth. Precious metal dealers and refiners check each piece of jewelry to make sure it contains what it says it does. They use chemical tests to confirm this information. If any test results are inconsistent with the brand's reputation, the jewelry will be rejected.
Silver has many uses besides making jewelry.