Difference Between Silver and Sterling Silver (With Table)

People use several things to enhance looks; the oldest and most common are clothes and jewelry. While clothes are made up of different fabrics and designs, which are limited as compared to the jewelry and metals used for it.

Nowadays, several alloys and metals are used for the manufacturing of different pieces of jewelry. Earlier it used to be limited to copper, gold, and silver. Gold is indeed used by many, but it is not an affordable option. Therefore pieces of jewelry are made up of silver and sterling silver. Now, most people are aware of silver but not sterling silver. Following are differences along with other information about silver and sterling silver.

Silver vs Sterling Silver

The difference between silver and sterling silver is in its compositions, while silver is purely made with silver only for the manufacturing of sterling silver. More metals are mixed along with silver which leads to changing few properties of the metal (silver). Silver does not always come with a hallmark for identification, while sterling silver always comes with a hallmark for identification. In terms of skin reactions, sterling silver can be reactive to the skin if some metal such as nickel is added with the silver, while no such skin reaction is with silver. Therefore, sterling silver is said to be a better option for artisans as it is more durable, less expensive, less soft, hard, etc., while silver has its own advantages. For example, does not cause skin allergies or reactions.

Silver is a white metal with the symbol Ag. It is mostly used for making jewelry and other decorative items. It can be tarnished easily as silver gets reactive with chemicals in the air and another thing (which can be removed in some cases) due to which it becomes less durable. It is a soft metal which makes it harder to work with. It is shinier metal, making it ideal for pieces of jewelry.

Sterling Silver is made of silver and copper mostly, but other metals can also be added with it to enhance properties. Like silver, it is also sued for making jewelry and decorative items. Unlike silver, it cannot be tarnished easily as it has other metals that are also added with silver. It makes it a more durable, stronger, ideal choice. It is not as soft as silver and cannot be molded easily. It is far more affordable than silver.

Comparison Table Between Silver and Sterling Silver

Parameters of ComparisonSilverSterling Silver
PurityMore pure Less pure
TarnishingMore likelyNo tarnishing
DurabilityLess durableMore durable
SoftSofterLess soft
AffordabilityLess affordableMore affordable

What is Silver?

The exact date of discovering silver is not known. It has been used for a long time. Nuggets of this metal can be easily found in minerals and rivers. It is a non-toxic metal, but some salt can be poisonous. It was used to protect milk from getting spoiled if preserved for a long time. It has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity. It is a soft, ductile, and lustrous metal that can be molded easily. It is also stable in air and water unless it comes in contact with sulfur compounds. 

Uses of Silver:

  • Higher quality silver is used for making pieces of jewelry and other decorative items. 
  • It has anti-bacterial properties, and this is the reason why it is used for adding in food as additive and color.
  • It is also used as an electrical contact. 
  • It is also used in the photographic industry.

Making pieces of jewelry and other fine items with silver can be a difficult task as it is highly soft and lustrous, making it unstable. Despite this, it has been used as traditional jewelry for years.

What is Sterling Silver?

It is an alloy of 92 percent of silver and the rest of copper-zinc, etc. the reason why this alloy is manufactured or used mostly is that it eliminates all the disadvantages for pure silver. It is easier to differentiate between silver and sterling by looking for the hallmark, which is absent in most of the silver items. Following are some of the benefits of sterling silver making is a useful and better option than pure silver:

  • Lightweight and durable: like silver, it is also very lightweight making it easier to carry as jewelry, but it also has an advantage over silver as it is more durable than it, it is due to the other metal present in the alloy.
  • Customization: as mentioned earlier, silver can be a difficult metal to work with. This is not in the case of sterling silver. It is easier to work with, which also gives the option of customization as per the preference and need of the customer.
  • Hypoallergenic: Unlike other metals, it is not allergic to anyone unless brass or nickel is added to the alloy, which can be allergic to some people. 

Therefore, with all the above benefits, it is quite clear sterling silver is better than pure silver, but someone looking for purity and authenticity will choose silver over it.

Main Differences Between Silver and Sterling Silver

  1. The main difference between silver and sterling silver is in their composition and purity. Silver is purer and is made up of 99.9% of silver, whereas sterling silver is an alloy and hence is made up of more than half part of silver and the rest of copper, zinc, nickel, and therefore it is less pure in comparison.
  2. In terms of tarnishing (a thin layer of corrosion on metals), silver has a slight disadvantage. Silver is more likely to get tarnished easily. This can lead to lowering the shine of the silver, while sterling silver is an alloy with properties of more than one metal, due to which it is less likely to get tarnished.
  3. Silver is comparatively less durable than sterling silver. Sterling silver is made from a mixing of silver, zinc, copper, etc. so that it can enhance the silver and overall durability of the jewelry. It strengthens the jewelry making lasts longer.
  4. Silver is softer, and hence artisans find it difficult to make fine lines and designs in jewelry with silver as it gets bent easily, whereas sterling silver, as mentioned above made with zinc and copper along with silver which provides it hardness and rigid along with the ideal choice for artisans.
  5. Lastly, when it comes to affordability, silver being purer is expensive, whereas sterling silver is comparatively less expensive as other metals are also added with it making it a more affordable metal.


Both of them are used most after gold for manufacturing jewelry, especially by someone who has a fetish for jewelers but cannot invest a big amount in it. Also, silver is said to be an ideal choice for making jewelry as it can be easily module, and several designs can be made with it. And sterling being an alloy, offers features of more than one metal. For weddings also rings, many parts of the world, silver and sterling silver is used as it looks elegant and classy. The new generation also prefers silver over gold and other types of metals due to its features and beauty.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/femsre/article-abstract/27/2-3/341/615473
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jimb/article-abstract/33/7/627/5993001
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921509306020831
  4. https://dl.designresearchsociety.org/drs-conference-papers/drs2006/researchpapers/68/
  5. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00170-012-4523-3.pdf
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