Man has known about the metal silver and has used it since as far back as 3000 B.C. Pure silver is a metal element with bright white metallic luster and it is very malleable and ductile. To a certain extent it is also a rare and expensive metal though not as much in comparison to gold and platinum. Pure silver is the best conductor of heat and electricity among all metals.
The symbol Ag has been derived from the Latin word Argentum meaning silver. The name silver itself stems from the Old English Anglo-Saxon word ‘seolfor’ meaning silver.
Silver has an atomic number of 47, occupies period 5, group 11 and block d in the periodic table and is classified as a transition metal.
Silver ore occurs in nature in native form and the metal also occurs in ores of copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead and lead-zinc. It is found in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia and the USA.
Pure silver does not react with air or water but reacts with hydrogen sulphide, Ozone and air containing sulphur which causes it to tarnish. The classic example of this occurs when boiled egg is served in a silver dish. Boiled egg emits hydrogen sulphide gas and tarnishes the dish.
Silver compounds find many uses in photography, printed circuits, dental compounds, brazing, electrical contacts, batteries and superior mirror production. Silver fulminate is used as an explosive.
Pure silver which is also called fine silver is very soft and jewelry items and other articles made of pure silver would not retain their shapes. In order to overcome this difficulty, a small quantity of another metal is mixed with pure silver to lend the desired hardness to the alloy. Though many other metals can make up the remaining non-silver portion, long term experience has shown copper to be the best choice which improves the hardness and durability of the alloy without affecting its color or luster. The alloy so obtained is called sterling silver.
Sterling silver is highly valued for making jewelry, tableware, and other ornamental uses and it is also widely used in coinage.
Copper-silver alloy containing 72% silver and 28% copper is known for its thermal conductivity finds industrial uses in electronics.
Sterling silver has a very special characteristic in sound resonance. For this reason, some brasswind instruments manufacturers craft musical instruments out of this metal. Leading saxophone manufacturers like Selmer, P.Mauriat, and Yanagisawa, have created some of their saxophones made from sterling silver and they believe that the instruments will become more resonant in sound performance.
It has been stipulated by FTC, The US Federal Trade Commission that jewelry in the United States can bear silver markings or be described as silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling, or with the abbreviation Ster only if it contains at least 92.5 percent pure silver.
The minimum silver content can also be stated as 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, so you might see the figures 925 or 92.5 used to designate silver content.
Under federal law, the marking must be accompanied by a maker’s mark or registered trademark.
Sterling silver is a very popular medium among people for crafting jewelry and can be used to make all kinds of jewelry, from silver rings to silver bracelets to earrings, necklaces and pendants. Its popularity may be based on the fact that the beauty of sterling silver jewelry is comparable to other precious metals while at the same time its price remains in the affordable range.
Sterling silver looks flawlessly sparkly and white when it is new. But, it might lose some of its sparkle and become dirtier and darker with passage of time. Though pure silver is impervious to tarnish and does not react with air or moisture, it might react with hydrogen sulphide or sulphur in ambient air causing it to tarnish. Moreover the copper content readily reacts with air causing a layer of tarnish on its surface.
However with proper regular care and certain precautions, your sterling silver will last you a lifetime.
Store your sterling silver jewelry in tarnish prevention cloths or bags. The treated cloth slows down the tarnishing process and keeps the jewelry from rubbing against harder jewelry that might scratch it. Keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place.
You should not allow your silver to come near household chemicals like cleaning bleach or ammonia. Chlorine in the chlorinated water of your swimming pool can damage silver.
An important thing to do is to wipe sterling silver jewelry with a clean polishing cloth after you have worn them. This will get the dust and dirt out of the nooks and corners of the jewelry.
Polishing cloths are an excellent choice for cleaning your sterling silver jewelry. Avoid using toothpaste to clean sterling silver, toothpaste is abrasive and can leave scratches.
Care should be taken to prevent the build up of tarnish overtime with regular wearing and regular cleaning. To clean your silver, use polishes formulated specifically to remove tarnish. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible.
With continuous long term use sterling silver jewelry often develops a lovely patina, a kind of glow combined with darkened areas. If you happen to like this look you can leave it as it is. Otherwise, you can use a polish cloth to restore the jewelry to its original appearance.
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