What is sterling silver?
Sterling silver is an alloy composed of 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% that of other metals, mostly copper. The standard sterling silver standard fineness is 925.
What’s the basis of alloying?
Fine silver is fairly soft, so its hardness and strength are increased by alloying it with copper to increase its hardness and strength. However, sterling silver is susceptible to tarnishing which can be reduced by allowing fine silver with metals other than copper.
The origin of Sterling Silver comes from Continental Europe and was being commercially used as early as the 12th century in modern Northern Germany.
England: The composition if sterling silver was examined officially during the reign of Henry II. However, the purity of alloy was being regulated from Saxon times. In Henry II’s reign, sterling silver was used as the standard against pyx was tried. The first legal definition of sterling silver developed in 1275.
Colonial America: Here, sterling silver was used as a form of currency as well as general goods. Between 1634 and 1776, a number of silversmiths, almost 500, produced items in the “New World” varying from simple clasps to luxuriant Rococo coffee pots. Despite being familiar of all the precious metals of the time, the silversmiths preferably worked with sterling silver.
The American radical Paul Revere was deemed as one of the finest silversmiths from the “Golden Age of American Silver.” After the Revolutionary War, Revere learned and made use of a silver rolling mill in England. The rolling mill increased his rate and quality of sterling silver products. However, after the first industrial revolution, the popularity of silversmithing as an artistic occupation declined.
From 1840 to 1940, sterling silver cutlery became a trend when the question of formal proper table setting arose. It was during this period when a number of silver companies. There was a marked increase in the number of silver companies that developed and emerged increasing the production and demand of the metal. This craze for silver remained at its peak for almost 50 years from 1870 to 1920.
Period of sterling decline
After 50 years’ golden period in which the demand and production of sterling reached its peak, the period of its decline soon followed. A number of factors converged to contribute to this decline an make sterling fall out of favor, especially around World War II. The important of them was the rising cost of sterling labor making it not affordable by ordinary people. Only the wealthy could afford such a fine ding and therefore, an obvious shift towards simple dinnerware was observed in this period.
Thus, Sterling Silver has a vast history of development, peak and ultimately fall in its popularity. However, like all other types, it is also an important metal alloy.