For ages, the shine of silver made eyes shine too.
With its lustrous color, through history silver has been used in many forms such as money, as tools and as jewelry by many civilizations.
Silver has been molded as a coin in the Roman Empire, took the form of a fork by the Mayas and became a ring for the Seljuks in Anatolia.
And today we continue to use silver as bullion, we gift silver spoons to newborns, we enjoy silver jewelry in various designs, we gift silver holloware on anniversaries and moreover silver has found itself new usages in various branches of industry, such as medicine, electronics, and even textile.
But where does silver come from?
Sure it does not grow on trees, but let’s take a closer look at its sources and learn more about this precious metal.
1. Silver: Queen of Precious Metals
Silver is an element which sits on the square numbered 47 in the atomic table. Its symbol in chemistry is Ag from the Latin word Argentum.
Silver has very distinct physical properties: it tops the metal charts in electrical conductivity, heat conductivity, and reflectivity.
While copper is used in nearly every wire we can find, silver is a better conductor of electricity. But as copper is more abundant and much cheaper than silver, it is the choice for metal wires. And only where high conductivity is demanded with a risk of corrosion present, gold may be used as it is more resistant to corrosion than silver.
Silver is also a very good heat conductor used in tiny amounts in car rear-window defrosters to melt frost and ice and prevent condensation inside the window.
Thanks to its high reflectivity performance, silver is used in the coating of mirrors thanks to its high reflective property.
2. Silver: Jewelry, Money, and Tableware
Silver is too soft in its pure form for prolonged use thus we use silver as an alloy with other metals. This makes it easier to shape and more durable to maintain over time.
The most common alloy of silver is with copper
Although other metals are also used, Sterling silver which is constituted of 92,5% silver and 7,5% other metals, such as copper or nickel, is the most widely used standard. It is mainly marked as 925 Silver or 925 parts silver and used in jewelry and silverware.
Another alloy of silver which is also used in silverware and jewelry is Argentium silver. While it is very close to sterling silver, Argentium silver always includes a small percentage of germanium in its composition.
While silver has been demonetized by many countries, many government and private mints produce silver coins and rolls and other silver bullion products.
For example, the US Mint produces silver eagle coins which are 1 oz 99,9% pure silver. These coins are not circulated and are not used in daily transactions as their value is much greater than their face value of $1.
Another example of out of circulation silver coins is 1964 Kennedy Halves, which is 90% silver and do contain .3617 oz of silver.
Another main use of silver is flatware. Silver tableware has always been a sign of respect towards the guests: every woman prides herself in serving her guests with a well-decorated feast table where silver and porcelain are the main actors.
Silver utensils and serving plates accompanied with silver cutlery set have been used on a well designed table for centuries and are inherited through the family line.
3. How to Buy Silver Jewerly and Gifts
Is it silver?
When shopping for silver items, two questions which always come to mind are regarding its originality and purity. And rightfully so, a smart buyer should always be sure of the type of material, its purity and weight to correctly determine a value for the item.
How to can I learn the quality of silver?
For an object to be called “silver”, coins aside, it has to be at least 92,5% silver and the rest may be of other base metals. The name for this quality of silver items is “Sterling silver” and it is the most widely used standard of silver for jewelry, silverware and silver utensils.
“Sterling silver”, “Sterling”, “925 Sterling” are all signs of the same silver quality 925 of 1000 parts pure silver.
A silver item may also have the markings “925”, “.925” and “92.5” all indicating it is genuine sterling silver.
Sterling silver jewelry should not be confused with silver coated or silver plated items which have different metal bodies and a silver coating over them.
What does “silver plated” mean?
“Silver plated” means that a thin layer of silver has been applied on the surface of another metal like copper or nickel. And, to put it clearly, “silver plated” does not mean “sterling silver” and such an item should not carry the markings of Sterling cited above.
The thin layer of silver is measured in microns and such items are priced more cheaply than sterling silver items.
As expensive measures are needed to extract the thin layer, generally it is not feasible to try to recover the silver. Thus these items are priced more lightly than sterling silver jewelry in reselling and thus are less likely to go into recycling.
Another important difference between sterling silver and silver plated items are that genuine silver objects will last as long as you take good care of them. If you keep them in a dry and low humidity storage, with taking care of possible tarnish with appropriate cleaning clothes and cleaning material, you will be able to pass them to the next generation without a problem.
But one can not say the same for silver plated items. Silver plated items are very open to frictional and chemical effects which diminish its life time. When shopping for a gift, you should always pay attention to choose sterling silver as the receiver would enjoy a greater time of usage.
What is Vermeil?
Vermeil refers to silver items which are plated with gold.
The necessary condition for an item to be considered vermeil is that the
gold covering the silver body should be at least 10 karats pure and the thickness should be at least 2.5 microns.
The biggest difference between vermeil and other gold plated jewelry items is that Vermeil must be produced from silver, not any other metal. Generally, a metal much cheaper than silver is used for gold plated jewelry.
Also, their is no restriction for the thickness of a gold plated item. It might be thicker or thinner than 2.5 microns. And of course, the thickness will directly affect cost and price.
When buying vermeil or gold plated jewelry, one should always pay special attention to the karat of gold used and its thickness.
Silver Quality Marks
When buying silver items, two other signs to look for are the trademark and the hallmark.
If you have a trademark on the silver item, this means you have identified the source of the product. This trademark of the manufacturer may give necessary information and lead to answers of questions: you may directly contact the manufacturer and get the information you want to know. At this day and age, every producer has a web presence and you may reach them via email or phone.
A hallmark is an official mark or a series of marking for metals, mainly precious metals like gold and silver. Not to be confused with trademark, hallmarks may have been applied on the surface with punching of laser marking.
As here many countries and lots of national and private producers which produces silver jewelry, silver bullion, silverware and other silver items; it is practically impossible to know and recognize in one sight each and every sign.
Thus as an astute buyer, you should never hesitate to consult a jeweler or silver seller on trademarks and hallmarks to correctly assess the buying decision.
How should we price silver jewelry and other silver items?
When buying silver, one should never make a guestimate price based on “look” and “weight”. Only the naive buyer would calculate such a price by multiplying the ounce value of silver with the items supposed weight.
The smart buyer should always check the markings and understand whether the item is genuine silver or a silver coated metal or a fake item.
Never hesitate to ask for the items weight. The seller should answer without problem or even if he or she does not remember or know the actual weight; in every jewelry store, there is a weighing scale.
But of course, even the correct identification of the material and type of item with its weight would not be sufficient determine its price. As obvious it is there are always the design, designer name, brand and craftsmanship factors which may heavily affect the price.
4. Silver Gifts for Him
Want to give an important man in your life a gift they would treasure forever?
Regardless of whether that man is your father, brother, husband or boyfriend, you are assured that giving them holloware silver gifts for him would make even the most ordinary day extra special.
Here are few good ideas:
Sterling Silver Compass
This is one of the gifts that you can personalize by engraving his name or a special date on the back. Not only it will have a practical value, but also it could be used as a decorative item in the living room or home library.
Silver Fountain Pen
This one is perfect if you want to give something fancy without overstretching your pocket. You have an immense selection to choose from: pick the one that is capable of providing your loved one a comfortable grip and allows them to make high precision lines.
Silver Sand Timer
Remind him about how precious time is by giving a silver sand timer. Not only is it a practical gift it also has a medication value as watching the falling sand can be quite relaxing as well.
Sterling Silver Cufflinks
A pair of silver cufflinks is a wonderful gift idea for that special man.
It will not only make him feel good but look good too!
Sterling Silver Pill Box
Show them how much you care for his health through giving him a sterling silver pill box where he can store his pills and medications.
You can choose among the simple ones to the decorative and engraved ones, depending on his preferences.
Sterling Silver Pencil And Marker Golf Set
This gift is perfect for men who are fond of playing golf, regardless of whether they are a beginner or a professional golf player.
Nowadays, you can even place an engraving text and personalize your gift.
Sterling Silver Plain Credit Or Visiting Card Case
Another useful gift idea is a case where he can place his credit cards or keep visiting cards, this would surely come in handy, especially if they travel often.
Sterling Silver Watch
Want something that would remind him of you? Might as well give them a sterling silver watch.
Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it is also a useful gift that will be used for years.
5. Silver Gifts for Her
Want to let her know how much you love her? Well, aside from you telling her the words “I Love You”, it would also be great to show it to her through your actions by purchasing silver gifts for her. After all, every woman loves shimmering, elegant, stylish and luxurious objects.
Silver, with gold, has always been a popular material for bracelets. And you are in no shortage of choice: there are a million designs of silver bracelets you can choose from like the charm, chain and bangle ones with all many finishes.
There are more than you can desire choices when it comes to silver rings but you can the extra mile by personalizing your gift.
While you may customize your gift by choosing a special engravement; you may also opt for a special manufacturing company which accepts custom orders, letting you give them the design thus creating a truly unique gift.
Such a ring would surely be a great embellishment on your loved one’s hand.
Dangling from the ears, silver earrings makes a woman look more fashionable and makes her confident. No wonder why women don’t go out without a pair of earrings.
Silver chains come in various length, designs and textures; and they have a unique property which allows the owner to create her own designs with different pendants.
Regardless of what the occasion is, a silver charm would surely be a great gift for her. Not only can you buy them easily online but you can also do it yourself and it would surely be more appreciated the receiver.
A flashy yet elegant silver necklace is always a good choice as a gift.
Choose a design with her favorite color or maybe her most loved animal, you can be sure that shimmering piece will bring a big smile and remind her of you every time she sees it.
Silver Ring Box
Every woman has rings and silver ring but only a few have a silver box for her rings.
Silver pendants never run out of style and even until today, they are considered as a great style ornamentation.
Customize the pendant with her initials to obtain a thoroughly unique gift.
6. Silver Gifts for Baby
Having a baby in the family is considered as one of the happiest moments that every family member can experience: the newborn is truly a blessing that brings happiness and relaxation in a particular family.
With this, a baby deserves to receive the best gifts on birth, christenings and other important occasions.
Silver gifts are considered as a symbol of appreciation for the one who will receive the gift. Definitely, this is a very good gift idea for welcoming the newborn.
To mention a few, here are some good gift ideas for babies.
Pure Silver Feeding Bowl and Milk Dispensers
A baby needs to be loved and cared in the best possible way with special attention to nutrition.
One of the best gifts that you can give for a baby is a pure silver feeding bowl and milk dispensers: it will be used constantly used and offer a hygienic tool.
Pure Silver Baby Anklets
To show your care and genuineness for the baby, you may choose a pure silver baby anklet.
You may also customize the anklet with a small charm with the initials of the baby on the back.
Pure Silver Baby Bracelets
Another good gift idea for a baby is giving pure silver baby bracelets.
It is natural that at early years of a baby, he or she will need a toy that can help towards development: a rattle is a classic one. With this, you can give the baby with a silver plain baby’s rattle that can serve as his or her toy towards mental development.
Silver Baby Bangle
Accessories are also great gift ideas for babies. With its creative silver designs, the baby can look more adorable.
Sterling Silver Tooth Fairy Keepsake Bell
During occasions like the christening, sterling silver tooth fairy keepsake bell can be a memorable gift. Thus, it can serve as a symbol of your love and care for the baby on that particular day.
7. Silver Gifts for Couples
Everybody wants to love and to feel loved: Love is one of those great feelings that you can experience in your whole life.
You always want to show your love and care for the most important person in your life: by your words, by your actions, and by your gifts.
To further help you, the following are some of the best silver gifts for couples that you can choose from.
Couples have always the best ways to show their deep care as well as appreciation towards one another. Meanwhile, during on their important events and occasions, you can have the chance to surprise a couple or your loved one by giving a silver sculpture gift.
The good thing about it is that you can also show your deep sense of artistry and at the same time your respect and genuineness.
Silver Oil Lamps
Silver oil lamps can also be one of the most memorable gifts that you can give for a particular couple. It is an exquisite and decorative gifts that can be used by the couple as their home.
A mirror is an essential object in the every home living. Definitely, you can choose a silver mirror as your valuable gift. With this, you can really show your appreciation on an important occasion.
Silver candlestick is an elegant gift that you can give to a loving couple.
While can be used actively on romantic nights and special occasions, it will shine when it is not lit too.
Sterling Silver Candle Snuffer
If you are looking for a unique gift for a couple, you can try to avail a sterling silver candle snuffer. The good thing about it is that the couple can use it for long period of time.
Think about combining a silver candle snuffer with a pair of silver candlesticks: this would surely be a wonderful gift.
Silver Slate Tea-light Holder
If you want to give your full support and good luck to a couple who is celebrating an important event, then you can surprise them with a silver slate tea-light holder.
Just like candlesticks, a silver slate tea-light holder can be used as a decorative item in the living room and on the dining table.
Silver Key Ring
A double key ring which becomes a whole then they come together could be a wonderful gift idea for a couple.
Silver Sand Timer
A silver sand hourglass is a distinct and aesthetic gift idea which will shine in every home.
8. How to Take Care of Your Silver Items?
If you want your silver jewelry and silverware to keep their lustrous shine, you should take good care of them.
Silver Sterling jewelry should be stored separately to prevent scratches from hits of other jewelry and surface friction. You may use individual soft poutches specific for jewelry.
Also, you may keep them in their separate boxes or different compartments in a jewelry box. In this way, not only you may prevent physical damage but also find them easily as they will not get mixed with other items.
What is tarnish? Does silver tarnish?
Tarnish is a sort of corrosion: a result of oxidation on the surface of various metals like copper, aluminum, and silver.
Even though sterling silver may tarnish due to oxygen, generally it tarnishes because of the copper present in the alloy. Copper reacts with humidity and sulfur in the air and causes a layer of grayish-blackish color to form.
While we may get rid of tarnish, the best way to cope with it is to take preventative measures before it ever occurs.
As humidity is an enhancing factor for tarnish, you should refrain from wearing your silver jewelry during swimming or in the shower. You should keep them dry and if they get wet, you should dry them up as soon as possible for a prolonged use.
As tarnish is a result of a chemical reaction, you should be careful to avoid cases where chemical agents may interact with your silver. For example, during home cleaning it would be better if you do not wear your silver jewelry or when you use a perfume or deodorant, the less you spray on your jewelry the better. So putting your jewelry after using perfumes, is best.
One good side of tarnish is that it is self-limiting: as the tarnish forms a layer it prevents future reactions. But nevertheless, even a small amount of blackish tarnish will cause the sterling silver item to lose from its attractiveness.
What can we do to prevent tarnish?
As silver does tarnish, you should keep it in a cool and dry place to prevent oxidation of silver. If you let humidity reach your precious items, they will lose their brightness and look unattractive. This is why many silver owners keep their belonging in tarnish-resistant clothes. A step further is using polish may prevent tarnish. Applying a thin layer of polish with the right piece of cloth will help to extend the brightness of silver.
Unfortunately, tarnish is nearly impossible to avoid as metals do react will oxygen chemically. But thankfully, you may easily return your silver to its initial shine, with an appropriate silver polish applied with the right silver cloth.
While there are many commercial products for silver polish and silver care, you may also choose household items readily available in every home such as toothpaste.
In any case, please consult your local jewelry shop for the right method to clean your specific items. Don’t forget: Not every item is the same, nor do they react the same way to same effects. You may damage or even lose your precious belongings if you take the wrong measures. Never try to clean or polish a silver item, without being completely sure that you are going to and are able to reach your desired goal.
To end with, please note opting for a professional service will reduce the risk of damaging and maybe losing your precious belongings. Though it will have a price tag attached to it, you will save time and energy.