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The John Atencio Jewelry Glossary The John Atencio Jewelry Glossary
Glossary › Sterling Silver

Glossary: Sterling Silver

A popular jewelry material, sterling silver is a type of precious metal that contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. The metal is prized for its strength, durability, beauty and shine. All of these qualities make sterling silver a very popular choice for affordable and lustrous necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings.

Sterling Silver Jewelry

Sterling silver jewelry is popular for its bright luster, relative affordability and its relative resistance to tarnish.

When deciding between different sterling silver jewelry pieces, it's important to be aware of the different grades of silver. The highest quality silver is "fine silver," which is 99.9% pure silver. Unfortunately, fine silver is much too soft for jewelry, so it's alloyed with other metals to create sterling silver. Again, the term "sterling silver" refers to the standard of silver purity for jewelry making. For any jewelry piece to be considered sterling silver, it has to contain a minimum of 92.5% silver. The other 7.5% can be any other metal but is usually copper.

Both beautiful and affordable, sterling silver jewelry can be worked into a variety of designs, from simple sterling silver rings and sterling silver earrings to elaborate sterling silver necklaces and elegant pieces that combine silver and gold. When treated with rhodium plating, the metal’s good resistance to tarnishing also makes it a nice choice for everyday jewelry pieces.

The Advantages

Sterling silver jewelry is a popular choice for many people due to a number of key benefits, including:

  • Inexpensive: Sterling silver is a fraction of the cost of gold or platinum, making it a great option for those on a budget.
  • Durability: Sterling silver is more durable than silver-plated jewelry and can withstand everyday wear and tear.
  • Tarnish-resistant: Sterling silver is less likely to tarnish than other types of silver, making it a good choice for those who want their jewelry to last.
  • Allergy-friendly: Unlike some metals, sterling silver is hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause skin irritation.
  • Versatile: Sterling silver can be combined with other metals to create a variety of jewelry styles.


While it does offer many compelling benefits, there are some drawbacks to sterling silver that should be considered before making a purchase.

  • Tarnishes over time: Despite being less likely to tarnish than other types of silver, sterling silver will eventually develop a patina if it is not properly cared for.
  • Scratches easily: Sterling silver is a relatively soft metal and can scratch easily if not stored properly.
  • Requires regular cleaning: To prevent sterling silver from tarnishing, it must be cleaned regularly. This can be mitigated if the silver is treated with rhodium plating.
  • Can lose form: Sterling silver is more prone to bends and dents than harder metals.
  • May cause skin discoloration: Sterling silver may cause a greenish tint to the skin if it reacts with chemicals in cosmetics or perspiration.

 Despite its drawbacks, sterling silver is a versatile metal that looks great in many different jewelry pieces. These days, there are more options than ever, including oxidized sterling silver, also known as blackened silver. 

With this genuine sterling silver, the outer surface is purposely darkened using chemicals that speed up the natural tarnishing process. This creates a stunning dark patina, which consists of a thin layer of silver sulfide on the visible exterior of the metal.

Blackened silver’s beautiful dark patina yields striking jewelry with an alluring edge. Some of the most alluring examples are found in John Atencio’s Duplex and Elixir collections, which feature a broad array of uniquely compelling jewelry pieces with sleek blackened silver attributes.

Both of these collections include masterfully crafted pieces with varying amounts of blackened sterling silver throughout. That said, John Atencio has numerous other gorgeous silver jewelry pieces available online and at his many Colorado locations. If you’re interested in adding traditional sterling silver or oxidized silver to your collection, John Atencio is the place to start.

From the precious metal and the gemstone to the setting and design, John Atencio’s attentive jewelry consultants can help you choose the ideal jewelry piece for yourself or that special someone. Shop online or schedule an appointment at one of our many locations, where our experts can guide you toward a stunning piece of jewelry that reflects your unique style.