If you have a full jewelry box, there’s a good chance you have a piece that contains 925 silver, also known as sterling silver. This type of metal is commonly found in jewelry but is also found in silverware, electronics, and even musical instruments. Next time you’re ready to throw a piece of broken jewelry in the trash, check to see if it contains this precious metal; if so, you may be able to sell it as scrap silver. We have what you need to know about sterling silver detailed below.
In This Article
- What Is 925 Silver?
- History of 925 Silver
- What Items Are Made with 925 Silver?
- Value of 925 Silver Jewelry
- Testing for Authenticity
- Caring for 925 Silver
- Scrap 925 Silver Prices
What Is 925 Silver?
Contrary to what many people believe, sterling silver, also known as 925 silver, is an alloy — not pure silver. Pure silver is too delicate and soft to be used on its own. Without another metal, objects made of pure silver would easily bend and break, so silver is often mixed with other metals to make it stronger. The “925” means that the material contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% some other sturdy metal. More often than not, silver is alloyed with copper, but it can also be alloyed with germanium, zinc, and platinum.
History of 925 Silver
The use of sterling silver began in Europe as a form of currency in the 12th century. Pilgrims brought the alloy with them to Colonial America, where it was used for both currency and functional objects, such as buckles and coffee pots. Silversmiths in the New World followed the same standards and conventions of the London Goldsmiths Company and added their silversmith mark on each piece they crafted until an assay office was established in 1814, allowing them to set their own standards for silversmithing.
One of the most famous silversmiths was Paul Revere. He took charge of a silver rolling mill following the Revolutionary War. He was able to increase production with more uniform results than most other silversmiths, setting the standard for consistent and efficient production with his bestselling products such as sterling silver flatware.
Due to the mass production of goods brought on by the Industrial Revolution, silversmithing by hand quickly became a less desirable trade. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, owning sterling silver flatware was the fashionable thing to do, and many companies were created to meet the increasing demand. However, by World War II, the craze had come to a halt due to the high labor costs required to make the pieces. By that time, only the wealthy purchased this fancy flatware, while other consumers wanted less intricate pieces that were easier to wash.
In the modern era, sterling silver is still widely used in a variety of objects that you probably see and use every day.
What Items Are Made with 925 Silver?
Sterling silver is found in many common items you probably have lying around your house, including:
- Tableware: serving trays, cutlery, napkin rings, and table decor
- Office supplies: paper clips, mechanical pencils, and letter openers
- Salon supplies: mirrors, brushes, manicure supplies, and hair clips
- Jewelry: necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets
- Musical instruments: flutes and saxophones
- Medical supplies: surgical instruments
Value of 925 Silver Jewelry
Sterling silver is an excellent alternative to more expensive gold jewelry, especially considering its corrosion-resistant properties. However, the fact that it’s less expensive than gold doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Depending on what you’re looking for — whether it be an engagement ring, a necklace, or a charm bracelet — you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $500 or more. The price will depend largely on the style and composition of the piece. (For example, a sterling silver necklace with diamonds will be more expensive than a simple sterling silver necklace.) In general, you can expect a piece of jewelry made of sterling silver to cost less than a comparable piece of similar design and craftsmanship made of gold. Learn more in the section below, titled Scrap 925 Silver Prices.
Testing for Authenticity
Before you get too caught up in 925 silver value information, make sure what you are examining is truly 925 silver. Not every piece of jewelry with a shiny, silver appearance is genuine sterling silver. Whether you’re investigating the pieces in your jewelry box to find out the worth of things you already own, or considering a new purchase and want to make sure you get what you pay for, it’s important to be able to distinguish genuine 925 silver from other metals.
Just because something looks like silver doesn’t mean it’s pure sterling silver. Something could be plated, or coated, with silver or a silver-like substance, giving it the appearance of sterling silver. However, over time, the silver plating will chip away and expose whatever metal is underneath it. This is usually copper, which will most likely tarnish once it’s been exposed to air. Since it’s difficult to tell real sterling silver from something that is silver-plated by appearance alone, here are a few things you can do to test for authenticity:
- Look for the 925 stamp. Most sterling silver objects from reputable sources will feature a stamp that identifies the piece as “925,” “Ster,” or “Sterling Silver,” somewhere on the object. If this doesn’t appear anywhere on the object, it’s likely just silver-plated.
- Rub the item with a soft, clean white cloth. After you thoroughly rub the object, check the cloth for black marks. If you don’t see any black marks on the cloth, it’s likely not sterling silver, as pure sterling silver oxidizes with air exposure.
- Smell the piece. If it has a metallic smell, it’s probably not sterling silver. You can compare by first smelling the piece in question and then smelling a regular penny. Sterling silver doesn’t give off the metallic, coppery smell that a penny does, but silver-plated objects might.
- Put the item next to a magnet. If the piece is attracted to the magnet, it’s not sterling silver, as true sterling silver does not react to magnets.
- Put a drop of nitric acid on it. This may be used as a last resort as not many people have nitric acid lying around the house, but it is an effective method for distinguishing sterling silver from lookalikes. Most honest salespeople will not be opposed to you putting a drop of nitric acid on the piece if they claim it’s real sterling silver. When the acid comes into contact with sterling silver, at most, the acid will take on a creamy color, but the silver will remain unharmed. If it’s fake, the acid will likely turn the piece green or cause its color to fade. Remember, always wear proper gear, including gloves and goggles, when handling nitric acid.
Caring for 925 Silver
Silver itself is fairly durable and resistant to tarnishing. Unlike copper, it won’t turn green over time. The only chemical that silver readily reacts to is sulfur, which is present in the air as a byproduct of many industrial processes, such as burning fossil fuel. Since sterling silver contains another metal, such as copper, it can also show signs of tarnish because of the other substance that makes up the alloy. Follow these tips to keep your sterling silver looking beautiful:
- Store your sterling silver jewelry in clean, dry, airtight containers. Make sure they are stored separately so that they don’t rub together. Never leave 925 silver jewelry sitting out, especially in high-moisture areas.
- Polishing the pieces with a dry, soft cloth will help them maintain their shine. Don’t worry about the black marks that appear on the cloth; it’s completely normal with frequent use.
- Don’t wear sterling silver jewelry in the shower or while swimming, and be sure to dry any sterling silver dishes or other objects immediately after washing them.
- Avoid getting chemicals on the sterling silver, including hair products, cosmetics, or cleaning agents.
Scrap 925 Silver Prices
Like any other metal, sterling silver can be cashed in as scrap metal. Depending on how much you have to offer, you could walk away with a fairly large sum of money. Silver is sold in three different increments: per gram, per ounce, and per troy ounce. The spot price is always listed as the price of silver per ounce, so you will need to convert if the scrap dealer doesn’t sell silver per ounce.
- One ounce is equivalent to 0.91 troy ounces. If you are selling 100 ounces of silver, but the dealer pays per troy ounce, you should receive 91% of the spot price.
- One ounce is equivalent to 28.35 grams. If you are selling 100 ounces of silver and the dealer pays per gram, you will multiply 2,835 by the price per gram.
Sometimes, dealers will take advantage of first-time sellers by selling in troy ounces or grams, but if you keep these conversions in mind and know the general spot price of silver, you will be able to determine if the dealer is giving you a fair deal. Sterling silver sellers need to keep in mind that since sterling silver isn’t pure silver, the weight alone will not determine how much one gets paid. For example, if you sell 100 ounces of sterling silver, you will only be paid 92.5% of the spot price of silver because the other 7.5% is either copper, zinc, or another metal.
Be sure to keep premiums in mind. This is a necessary fee that goes to the dealer. Usually, the larger the transaction, the lower percentage premium you will pay to the dealer. For example, on a small transaction, one might pay up to 20% to the dealer, whereas for a larger transaction, one might only pay 2%.
Most sterling silver dealers are local small businesses as opposed to nationwide chains. To find a sterling silver dealer in your area, try a quick Google search for “where to sell sterling silver near me.”
The price of silver is always fluctuating, even day to day. You can check the current spot price of silver by visiting this pricing index, provided by JM Bullion (and remember that you’ll only get 92.5% of the spot price, before the dealer’s cut).
Average 2018 Scrap Silver Price
The average price of silver for 2018 was $15.81 per ounce, with an overall declining trend throughout the year. The highest price for sterling silver in 2018 was $17.62 per ounce on January 25. The year’s lowest silver price was $14.00 per ounce, noted on both November 12 and November 13.
Historical Scrap Silver Prices
- Five-year (2013 – 2017):
- High: $32.23
- Low: $13.70
- Average: $18.55
- 10-year (2008 – 2017):
- High: $48.70
- Low: $8.88
- Average: $20.89
- 20-year (1998 – 2017):
- High: $48.70
- Low: $4.07
- Average: $13.87
Whether you’re in the market for a new piece of jewelry or looking to sell the scrap you’ve been holding on to for a few years, the information provided above should give you what you need to know about sterling silver and allowed you to make an educated buying or selling decision. Remember, when purchasing sterling silver pieces, look for the stamp to check the piece’s authenticity, and if you don’t see it, start asking questions. Looking to sell and don’t like the current spot price of silver? Hold on to your jewelry, and be on the lookout for rising prices. By tracking prices from sources like JM Bullion, you can be sure to get the best deal for your 925 silver.