What is Sterling Silver?
Customers and students who attend my jewellery classes often ask me what is sterling silver so I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about it. Sterling silver is an alloy, which is a chemically combined mix of two different metals. The two different metals contained in sterling silver are silver and copper. Sterling silver is made up of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. This is why the hallmark for silver is 925 (see photo). By the way, I only use sterling silver and gold to make my jewellery designs.
The reason why sterling silver is used in jewellery making (and not pure silver) is because the addition of copper makes sterling silver stronger, therefore more durable. This is advantageous for making jewellery as sterling silver is harder than pure silver so it will stay in shape, get less easily scratched and last longer when worn.
Why do some people say they are allergic to silver?
Some people say they are allergic to silver but this is possibly because they have worn jewellery that is made from nickel silver or silver containing some nickel. Nickel can cause allergic reactions in some people. This is generally in the form of a dermatological skin reaction. The content of nickel silver is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver is used by some manufacturers of cheap jewellery and then plated with sterling silver.
Another reason people may say they are allergic to silver is if they use detergent or chemical products that get between their jewellery and their skin. If these chemicals are not washed off jewellery properly it can cause irritation on the skin. Some people may think that they have an allergy to the metal rather than the chemicals that have been in contact with there skin for some time.
The good news is that the Nickel Directive (1994) and REACH Regulation (2006) both restrict the use of nickel in jewellery in the European Union. Supplies of sterling silver for jewellery making in the UK (from reputable suppliers at least) do not contain any nickel at all. Adding to this, all the sterling silver I purchase for my jewellery designs are from the largest UK supplier of precious metal bullion. I am pretty confident that their sterling silver does not contain any nickel.
I hope this post about ‘what is sterling silver’ was useful. Did it give you the information you needed? Do you have any experience of allergies from silver jewellery? Where did that jewellery come from I wonder? Please leave a comment below as I’d be interested to hear from you. Many thanks.