For thousands of years silver has been part of human civilization around the world. Not only used as jewelry, but kitchenware, weaponry, money and furnishings. Over the centuries, silver has been adapted and changed to suit many different purposes, as well as denoting its regional origins.
Because of these variations, silver grading is essential to identify the various standards that have been in use over the years. As with other precious metals such as gold and platinum, the quality of silver alloy is measured in millesimal fineness. This indicates the percentage of purity in the metal; for example, sterling silver has a millesimal fineness of 925, because it is 92.5% pure silver, with the remaining percentage made up of other metals and impurities.
Here’s a list of some of the various grades of silver, with a little bit of background:
- 999.9 silver: the purest silver bullion, and used to make the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf – a silver coin issued by the Royal Canadian Mint every February.
- 999 silver: used in silver bullion, this is the closest pure silver available on the open market. Originally used in commerce, 999 silver bullion is now more frequently purchased by collectors or acquired for industrial uses.
- 980 silver: Back in the 1930′s and 40′s, Mexico experienced something of a boom thanks to the discovery of a rich vein of silver. This silver had only the most minimal impurities, creating the beginnings of a thriving jewelry industry for the country.
- 958 silver: Also known as Britannia silver, 958 silver was introduced by William III in 1697. Designed as a replacement for 925 Sterling silver, it was far more malleable, making Britannia silver easier to work with. Sterling silver began to re-emerge in the early 1700′s, diminishing Britannia silvers use considerably.
- 950 silver – 950 silver also goes by the name French 1st Standard. Its purity means that it is still rather too soft for many other purposes than jewelry making and will tarnish easier than Sterling silver.
- 925 silver – Still a little too soft for industrial and functional use, 925 Sterling silver is often alloyed with copper, although other metals can be used to improve lustre. Primarily used to make 925 silver jewellery, this alloy is perfect for creating stunning pieces of incredible intricacy.
- 900 silver – While the hallmark for 900 silver is a European standard, it is also known as Coin silver in the US. With a higher level of impurity, this silver is ideal for use in jewelry and coinage, although in North America, the latter used much less silver after the mid-60s.
There are more grades, including 875, 830 and 800 silver. Each of these silver grades have a higher level of impurity, improving the hardness and functionality of the metal. While they have their purposes, it is the fineness of silver that attracts us. There’s an elegance and tastefulness to the look of silver, especially when used to create stunning jewelry.
Parriss Jewellers brings a range of stunning silver and gold jewelry, featuring precious stones and gems for men, women and children.