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Sterling silver vs. silver: What’s the difference? Which is better?

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If you own silver flatware or jewelry, chances are, it’s actually sterling silver — an alloy or mixture of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, like copper or nickel. 

So why is sterling silver more commonly used? And is it worth as much as pure silver? 

Keep reading to find out: 

If you’re looking to sell silver or sterling silver, our No. 1 recommendation for selling silver is A+ BBB-rated CashforSilverUSA

Sterling silver versus real silver

To start, silver is a white, lustrous metal classified by the chemical symbol Ag. It has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of any metal1

However, solid silver in its purest form is relatively soft, which makes it susceptible to marks and scratches. Sterling silver is a mixture of pure silver with other, stronger metals — 92.5% silver and 7.5% of the other metal(s) — to increase durability. 

Is sterling silver real silver?

Yes, sterling silver is pure silver mixed with a small percentage of another metal to make it more wearable and durable. Sterling silver is an alloy (a mixture of metals) just like 14k or 18k gold, which are also blended with other metals to create longer-lasting products.

Is real silver expensive?

Real sterling silver is more expensive than silver-plated, but it is less expensive than gold and white gold.

As of , the silver resale value in the United States was at $ per ounce, or $ per gram.

As of , the spot gold value in the United States was trading at $ per ounce, or $ per gram. 

Check out our post on how to tell the differences between sterling silver and white gold.

Is silver cheaper than sterling silver?

No, silver is not cheaper than sterling silver, simply because it contains a higher percentage of precious metal content — close to 100% silver vs. 92.5% silver in sterling silver. 

At a price of $23 per ounce, a 1-ounce piece of silver would be worth about $23, while a 1-ounce piece of sterling silver would be worth $21.28.

What lasts longer: silver or sterling silver?

Sterling silver is more durable than 100% silver because of the other metals added to it. That’s why it’s commonly used in jewelry and flatware over pure silver — it holds up better to everyday wear and tear. 

While both may tarnish over time when exposed to elements like chlorine and household chemicals, they’re easy to clean in a solution of baking soda, salt, white vinegar, and boiling water. Both types of silver are also strong enough not to be broken with daily use.

Which is better: sterling silver or silver?

Based strictly on price, pure silver is more valuable than sterling silver. But unless you have silver bars or silver coins you want to part with, you’re more likely to have sterling silver in your china cabinet or jewelry box. 

That’s because sterling silver outperforms when it comes to durability, which is why it’s more commonly used for everyday items like silver flatware and jewelry.  

Sterling silver vs. 925 silver

There’s no mystery to understanding sterling silver vs. 925 silver: they’re actually the same thing.

Here’s everything you need to know about 925 sterling silver:

Is there a difference between sterling silver and 925 silver?

Sterling silver and 925 silver are the same metal. Sterling silver is also called 925 silver because of its 92.5% silver content. 

How can you tell if you have 925 sterling silver?

Sterling silver is often stamped with a 925 symbol to denote its purity. The United States and most of the world follow the standard of 92.5%, though France and some other countries have a standard of 95%, or 950 silver. Learn more about stamps on jewelry.

However, it is possible that you could have unmarked sterling silver. You can get your jewelry tested by a professional jeweler if you’re unsure of its silver content. 

Here are some other indicators that can help you determine whether or not what you have is sterling silver:

  • Tarnishes over time
  • Quickly melts a piece of ice
  • Doesn’t rust
  • Not magnetic

Is 925 sterling silver real silver? 

Yes, 925 sterling silver is real silver alloyed with another metal to make it stronger.

Is 925 silver good quality?

925 silver is one of the highest-quality silvers you can find. Because it consists of 92.5% silver, it’s worth 92.5% the current value of silver. 

As of , the silver resale value in the United States was at $ per ounce, or $ per gram.

Does 925 sterling silver tarnish?

925 sterling silver does tarnish but will never rust. But don't fret! Sterling silver can be easily cleaned and restored to its original shine using special polishing cloths or homemade solutions like a baking soda and water paste. 

Also, storing your silver jewelry in airtight bags with anti-tarnish strips can help keep it looking its best.

What are the disadvantages of sterling silver?

There are a few drawbacks to sterling silver compared to other precious metals. For instance, it’s softer compared to white gold, gold, or platinum

“It can dent more easily because it is not as durable,” says Robin Williams, vice president of H Tim Williams Jewelers in Santee, Calif. 

Like pure silver, sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, though at a slower rate. You can make it shine for longer by not wearing silver jewelry in chlorinated or salt water and by not cooking while wearing your sterling silver jewelry.

Is it worth it to buy sterling silver?

Sterling silver is a high-end material that generally holds value over time. Precious metals tend to perform well during times of economic uncertainty and inflation. 

Bottom line: What is worth more, silver or sterling silver?

Silver is worth more than sterling silver since it doesn’t have any additional alloys diluting its precious metal content. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell sterling silver, for close to 92.5% of the current spot price of silver. 

Working with a reputable partner like CashforSilverUSA helps you get the most value out of your sterling silver jewelry and other items.

We like CashforSilver because: 

  • A+ BBB rating
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  1. “Silver.” Jul 19, 2023. Britannica.

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