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Being one of the world’s most common yet resourceful metals, sterling silver has undoubtedly influenced our lives in unimaginable ways.

As you dive deeper into the ‘caves’ of sterling silver, you see how silver is not your average metal. Its applications in commerce, industry, and investment purposes, make it highly practical, apart from just looking exquisite.

Silver, in general, may not seem important – at first glance – however, it has impacted several world economies beyond measure.

The super resourceful and luxuriant metal can be molded into several ornaments, including musical instruments, jewelry, dining sets, kitchenware, dining sets, etc.

Nevertheless, this article will journey through sterling silver’s rich (and expansive) history. Also, the article will help us understand better the applications of sterling silver in modern-day life and, more importantly, help us determine its worth.

Sterling Silver – Brief History

Sterling silver traces its roots as far back as 3000 BCE when prehistoric people discovered silver along copper passages in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Silver was used in the form of several ornaments, jewelry, and utensils, which are much similar to today.

With that said, a significant chunk of sterling silver’s history can be credited to the Roman era during the 12th century. King Edward the first officiated the use of sterling silver coins for commerce and trade.

King Edward also introduced hallmarks to the silver coins to make them more identifiable and less counterfeit.

For instance, King Edward required that the silver coins be made of 92.5% pure silver content with the remaining 7.5% copper/zinc/nickel content. Hence, the name “925 Sterling Silver.”

The 13th century saw a rise in sterling silver-based jewelry pieces; people began taking pride in it, and sterling silver was seen as a piece of symbolic status.

Soon afterward, in the 18th century, the Americans struck luck when miners discovered vast resources of silver in North and South America. Thanks to its impressive heat conductivity, the silver could be molded into many properties, including flatware, jewelry, utensils, and, most importantly, a legal tender – currency.

The improvements in American living standards increased the demand for sterling silver ornaments and objects, mostly jewelry. The rise in demand and the abundance of silver resources made it a popular object amongst households.

The production of sterling silver peaked, especially during the Victorian era. The royal family used silver as flatware or dining sets to highlight their status and royalty.

However, the start of the first world war caused a global disruption in the production (and demand) of sterling silver. Followed by the Great Depression in the 1930s, sterling silver prices reached an all-time low of $5.41 per ounce (Jan 1931).

Until the Coinage Act of 1965, the United States mint removed sterling silver coins from circulation. Instead, the sterling silver coins were replaced by “clad coins,” which were abundant, readily available, and cheaper.

Fueled by advancements in technology and trade, sterling silver’s demand (and production) is on a steady rise. Nowadays, the applications of silver are widespread in different fields, including dental alloys, photography, water filters, microchips, solar power production, car switches, medicines, and whatnot!

As of writing this article, an ounce of sterling silver can set you back by USD$18.39. With that said, it is better to check the live price of silver due to constantly fluctuating prices.

The table below shows sterling silver’s yearly prices (1969 – 2022).

Year Average Closing Price Year Open Year High Year Low Year Close Annual % Change
2022 $21.80 $22.81 $26.90 $17.83 $18.27 -21.74%
2021 $25.14 $27.36 $29.42 $21.49 $23.35 -11.55%
2020 $20.69 $18.05 $29.26 $11.77 $26.40 47.44%
2019 $16.22 $15.65 $19.55 $14.32 $17.90 15.36%
2018 $15.71 $17.21 $17.62 $13.98 $15.52 -9.40%
2017 $17.07 $16.41 $18.51 $15.43 $17.13 7.12%
2016 $17.17 $13.84 $20.70 $13.75 $15.99 15.86%
2015 $15.66 $15.71 $18.23 $13.70 $13.80 -13.59%
2014 $19.07 $19.94 $22.05 $15.28 $15.97 -18.10%
2013 $23.79 $30.87 $32.23 $18.61 $19.50 -34.89%
2012 $31.15 $28.78 $37.23 $26.67 $29.95 6.28%
2011 $35.12 $30.67 $48.70 $26.16 $28.18 -8.00%
2010 $20.19 $17.17 $30.70 $15.14 $30.63 80.28%
2009 $14.67 $11.08 $19.18 $10.51 $16.99 57.46%
2008 $14.99 $14.93 $20.92 $8.88 $10.79 -26.90%
2007 $13.38 $13.01 $15.82 $11.67 $14.76 14.42%
2006 $11.55 $9.04 $14.94 $8.83 $12.90 46.09%
2005 $7.31 $6.39 $9.23 $6.39 $8.83 29.47%
2004 $6.66 $5.99 $8.29 $5.50 $6.82 14.24%
2003 $4.88 $4.74 $5.97 $4.37 $5.97 27.84%
2002 $4.60 $4.59 $5.10 $4.24 $4.67 3.32%
2001 $4.37 $4.59 $4.82 $4.07 $4.52 -1.31%
2000 $4.95 $5.30 $5.45 $4.57 $4.58 -14.07%
1999 $5.22 $5.00 $5.75 $4.88 $5.33 6.39%
1998 $5.54 $5.94 $7.81 $4.69 $5.01 -16.50%
1997 $4.90 $4.77 $6.27 $4.22 $6.00 25.00%
1996 $5.20 $5.17 $5.83 $4.71 $4.80 -6.61%
1995 $5.20 $4.84 $6.04 $4.42 $5.14 5.98%
1994 $5.29 $5.28 $5.75 $4.64 $4.85 -5.27%
1993 $4.31 $3.66 $5.42 $3.56 $5.12 39.51%
1992 $3.95 $3.87 $4.34 $3.65 $3.67 -4.92%
1991 $4.06 $4.16 $4.57 $3.55 $3.86 -7.88%
1990 $4.83 $5.21 $5.36 $3.95 $4.19 -19.73%
1989 $5.50 $6.07 $6.21 $5.05 $5.22 -13.72%
1988 $6.53 $6.64 $7.82 $6.05 $6.05 -9.70%
1987 $7.02 $5.36 $10.93 $5.36 $6.70 26.89%
1986 $5.47 $5.81 $6.31 $4.85 $5.28 -8.97%
1985 $6.13 $6.25 $6.75 $5.45 $5.80 -7.79%
1984 $8.15 $8.96 $10.11 $6.22 $6.29 -29.41%
1983 $11.42 $11.07 $14.67 $7.54 $8.91 -18.03%
1982 $7.92 $8.06 $11.11 $4.90 $10.87 33.37%
1981 $10.49 $15.80 $16.30 $8.03 $8.15 -47.42%
1980 $20.98 $39.95 $49.45 $10.89 $15.50 -51.86%
1979 $11.07 $6.08 $32.20 $5.94 $32.20 434.88%
1978 $5.42 $4.87 $6.26 $4.82 $6.02 26.47%
1977 $4.64 $4.43 $4.98 $4.31 $4.76 9.17%
1976 $4.35 $4.16 $5.08 $3.83 $4.36 4.31%
1975 $4.43 $4.44 $5.21 $3.93 $4.18 -6.49%
1974 $4.67 $3.28 $6.76 $3.27 $4.47 37.12%
1973 $2.55 $2.04 $3.26 $1.96 $3.26 60.59%
1972 $1.68 $1.37 $2.03 $1.37 $2.03 48.18%
1971 $1.54 $1.65 $1.75 $1.27 $1.37 -15.95%
1970 $1.77 $1.80 $1.93 $1.57 $1.63 -8.94%
1969 $1.80 $1.96 $2.04 $1.56 $1.79 -8.21%
SOURCE

Sterling Silver Vs. Pure Silver – Difference

There’s a thin line that separates sterling silver from pure silver. As the name suggests, pure silver consists of 99.9% silver content and 0.01% copper/zinc/nickel. Different hallmarks and identification marks are assigned to a pure silver ornament. For instance, a pure silver ornament can be distinguished by a 999 engraving/stamping indicating a 99.9% silver content.

Meanwhile, the components of sterling silver 925, as mentioned earlier, are 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper/zinc/nickel. With that said, such standards are not the same in all regions. For example, the French have set silver standards of .950 (95% pure silver content and 7.5% other alloys).

Nonetheless, pure silver holds more value than 925 sterling silver thanks to its higher silver content. Since silvers are soft and prone to scratches/dents, they are alloyed with other metals like copper/zinc for more durability and long-lasting effects.

So, 925 sterling silver is much better and more applicable in real-life applications. The ruggedness of the alloys makes the metal more robust, all the while looking exquisite.

In rare cases, pure silver is molded into pieces of jewelry, necklaces, pendants, etc. Most of the uses of pure silver can be seen in cutleries, vases, plates, and flatware/tableware.

In similarities, both metals tend to tarnish and, eventually, lose their shine and glory. All in all, such differentiation between pure and sterling silver is essential to know before committing to one.

Sterling Silver – How To Check If It’s Authentic?

Telling a fake sterling silver from an authentic one can be simple, given that you know how to proceed with one. For instance, all manufacturers are required by law to stamp their ornaments with “925” (or “.999”) engravings to indicate the silver content. So, look out for such stampings to verify their authenticity.

However, some manufacturers may choose to avoid putting stamps in an attempt to reduce costs and offer low-quality silver.

Alternatively, you may choose to take other steps, like performing an acid test. Such can be done through your local jewelry store.

Similarly, you may want to look out for tarnish marks. Whether tarnish marks are good or bad news is entirely up to you, but these marks are an excellent way of reflecting how authentic the piece of sterling silver is.

If you’re looking at a used piece of sterling silver ornament, expect it to have tarnish marks. As mentioned earlier, (authentic) sterling silver metal is soft and prone to scratches/dents. So, tarnish marks directly relate to the ornament’s authenticity.

Likewise, you may choose to perform a magnet test. (Sterling) Silver tends to emit no magnetic effects. So, a solid magnet-silver connection shows a high possibility of you encountering a counterfeit silver ornament.

Meanwhile, you can even experiment with the white metal on ice. Silvers are known for being the best heat-conducting metals of all, so the quicker the silver melts the ice, the higher the chances are of the silver being genuine.

FAQs

Is sterling silver worth anything?

Yes, sterling silver is worth your time, investment, and money, depending on age, condition, shape, and global prices. For instance, sterling silver in mint condition can be valued at more than a tarnished piece of sterling silver.

Likewise, you may want to look at the fluctuating prices of sterling silver. Prices can vary depending on economic conditions, so be wary of getting a lower valuation than expected.

Moreover, if you have antique sterling silver pieces or ornaments, expect even more worth in return.

Is sterling silver worth anything at a pawn shop?

Yes, the worth of sterling silver as valued by the pawn shop may be influenced by factors such as the silver content/purity of the ornament, the open market, and current economic conditions.

So, pure silvers (like .999 silver) will likely be fetching a high value compared to sterling silver (such as sterling .925 or .975). Also, be wary of the different markups on acquiring silver employed by pawnshops and ensure the best value possible.

How much is sterling silver worth per gram?

As of writing, a gram of sterling silver can cost you USD$0.59. Nonetheless, you should check the live prices of silver before concluding its worth, as the prices of sterling silver may fluctuate daily.

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Conclusion

If – luckily – you end up with a ‘collector’s item’ or an antique sterling silver, there are high chances of you striking gold. Even so, the history of the white metal (and the article) shows that sterling silver is not your average metal.

Apart from taking the toll of time, it has also helped civilizations prosper. For example, the initiation of sterling silver as a means of currency aided the Roman empire’s flourishment in trade and commerce.

Silver is valuable thanks to its rich history, rarity, and expansive real-life applications. So, if you have any antique or otherwise new piece of sterling silver laying around, get it valued, and you may be lucky enough to get more than you asked for!

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