While gold is a great metal to have for a lot of different reasons, silver is also a gorgeous and very useful type of metal. Even in its jewelry state, when you buy silver you know you are getting something that is a great look that works well in every occasion. It is unfortunate that a lot of people in the world do not have as much respect for silver jewelry as they do for gold jewelry. For better or worse, this is just a silly prejudice on their parts despite the fact that it has no sense backing it up beyond elitism and personal opinions. Nonetheless, silver is an amazing kind of jewelry and its purchase is both a reasonable investment and a great way to enhance your personal style.
When you first get into the market of buying silver, you might be inclined to wonder what makes it so special. You might not even realize what kinds of markings you should be looking for, as they tend to be slightly different than the ones that mark gold as of one level of quality or another. While gold is all about the karat weight, silver is primarily concerned with being sterling or higher versus being of a lesser alloyed quality level. A good dealer can explain all of the details, but there are a few simple rules of thumb that are good to keep in mind.
For example, there is 980 Mexican silver at the highest level, which is actually 98% pure. This is actually a good deal purer than sterling silver, which both makes the metal more valuable and softer. In some cases, having a softer piece of jewelry is actually a bad thing, so knowing your own needs is generally your first step in the process.
Below 980, there is Britannia silver. This is 95.84% pure, and is only minted this way in England. If you see a piece with a hallmark indicating this, the dealer may be able to tell you a great deal about the piece's pedigree. Of similar quality is 950 silver, which is 95% pure. This can come from Mexico, France and other countries, but each country marks their differently. In fact, one could easily compose an entire article on the quality of "Minerva silver," which is the French term for 95% pure or 1st tiere silver that comes from this country.
Whether you believe it or not, there are actually three separate and distinct versions of "sterling" silver that can legally be sold on the market. There is the sterling silver of Japan, which is 95% pure, a rare type that is 93.5% pure, and the most commonly known standard of 92.5% purity that comes from England. Scotland, Ireland and the USA all use this as the sterling standard, as well. However, this is the lowest percentile that can be considered sterling. If anyone ever tries to pass something with less than 92.5% purity off as sterling to you, you know you are not dealing with a reputable dealer.
A piece of silver may also be 800, which simply means that it is 80% silver. While there is nothing wrong with 800 quality silver, make sure that you know what you are buying before you make your purchase. Ask the dealer some questions about the silver, its origin, its quality level and what any markings mean early on. This way, you can understand precisely what you are getting into and how this will affect you if you ever decide to resell your jewelry down the road. Ignorance is not necessarily bliss.
For instance, there is only a subtle appearance difference between silver and platinum.