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People have been wearing silver jewellery since ancient times. Today, sterling silver is the most popular choice with which to make silver jewellery since 100% pure silver is too soft.
Silver jewellery can be worn by both men and women, of any age. It has a neutral colour that blends well with almost any attire. It's also suited for all four seasons, so it can be worn throughout the year. And unlike gold jewellery, silver has a wide array of designs and styles.
There are four hallmarks for any silver item weighing more than 7.78g – .925, .950, .999, and .80. These hallmarks correspond to the purity of the silver – 92.5%, 95%, 99.9%, and 80% pure, respectively. .925 is sterling silver, the most common used for silver jewellery. .95 is commonly referred to as Britannic silver. .999 is a newer hallmark, rarely used in jewellery. .80 is sometimes referred to as Mexican silver. Because of its lower purity, it will tarnish more quickly than sterling and has a yellower, duller look. The hallmark will be imprinted in the silver so you can easily determine its content.
Storage and Care
Jewellers recommend storing your silver jewellery in separate cloth containers, like pouches or individual compartments in a jewellery box. You should also avoid exposing silver to harsh chemicals or wearing it in chlorinated water as that may cause it to tarnish.
Tarnish builds up as silver reacts to sulphur or hydrogen sulphide in the air, dulling the look of the jewellery. How quickly this happens depends on the size of the piece and the heat in which it was stored – larger items and items stored in warmer weather will need to be polished more frequently. You can buy silver solutions to clean tarnish or even a specialty silver polish cloth.
Types of Quasi-silver
There is some silver jewellery that's only quasi-silver, oftentimes true of costume jewellery. Silver-plated or silver-electroplated jewellery is one such type. Used for costume jewellery, it won't have a hallmark and if it does, it should say SP or EP. As little as 5% of the piece could be silver, so buyers should be wary of paying too much. Another quasi-silver type of costume jewellery is called Alpaca silver. This is a silver-coloured mixture of copper, nickel, zinc, and iron. Most times it does not contain any silver at all, though it may be plated in sterling silver. Silvertone jewellery is simply silver-coloured metal – this is the type that will leave a green or black line on your skin when you take it off.
These types of quasi-silver can often irritate skin, break easily, and tarnish quickly, so those with sensitive skin should be especially wary.